Volunteering around commitments as a mom at home may take some digging, but a way for you to contribute from home may be microvolunteering. This uses blocks of time through your day to complete work for organizations in your community. Jennifer Dumont, a Lansing, Michigan mom with an impressive volunteer resume, says all it takes is passion, and the benefits include spending more time with your kids, networking with other adults and learning new skills.
Microvolunteering makes use of gaps of time open to you through your day to complete important but manageably sized tasks. Those may include writing press releases, translating documents, stuffing envelopes, designing logos, tagging photos for the blind or writing letters to sick children. Microvolunteering grew around an English organization called Help From Home, which created a clearing house for simple, third-party-run volunteer opportunities. The jobs ran from simply signing surveys to knitting clothing for newborn babies. Help From Home is thought to be the largest site of its kind, rating volunteer tasks on how easily you can perform each in your pajamas. The effort, begun in 2008, is timely. The Institute of Volunteering Research predicts the demand for microaction is going to increase, creating more opportunities for you to volunteer at home.
Contributing to Schools
With cutbacks in budgets and decreased resources everywhere, schools increasingly rely on the contributions of parents. Washing band uniforms, sewing costumes for the drama club or preparing snacks for an after school club are all at-home jobs that make a difference. "You don't need to have any special skills," says Dumont, "just a willingness to help out. I don't know how to sew, but I can put a button on a jacket. That's how I started doing uniforms. The only real skill you need is a passion for the kids. Schools aren't looking for parents who know everything, they're looking for people who are interested in kids and have a heart to help them out. That's the biggest skill you have to have."
Keeping the Career Fires Lit
Strategic volunteering from home may keep you current with important job skills or introduce you to new ones. When you want to hone up on spreadsheet skills, for example, use your home computer to keep the books for a local church or keep statistics for a children's sports league. While microvolunteering is based around jobs requiring little to no training, it doesn't prevent you from working the process backward. As the authors of the Grown and Flown parenting website point out, volunteering has a wide definition, not simply limited to non-profits.
There are aspects of the microvolunteering concept that are ideal for the at-home mom and that will prevent volunteer burnout. Target time during the day when your hands are free, perhaps naptime or while your family watches television. New volunteers can choose short, simple activities matching these time slots to test the waters. Microvolunteering is largely Internet-based, so opportunities are as close as a web search. Sites such as SkillsForChange and Koodonation match volunteers with opportunities, while others, such as Sparks MicroVolunteering connect to opportunities available within an organization. The Extraordinaires are a grass-roots microvolunteering organization based on Facebook, showing that opportunities are all over.