For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Tis the Season to Volunteer

Posted on November 21, 2019
Image of 4 diverse people forming a circle around the camera, as in huddled - all wearing a light blue t-shirt that says "Volunteer" on the front.

As the holidays approach, it is not uncommon to think about volunteering for a local cause or charity. Some families like to volunteer together as a way of sharing in the act of giving back. Many like to volunteer as a means of celebrating a “family” holiday when they can’t be with family. And some work groups like to volunteer as a team builder. According to the Corporation of National & Community Service, 77.34 million adults volunteered in 2018, and regardless of the group, each one of those people has a different reason and motivation for volunteering. Nonprofit organizations depend on volunteers to sustain their charitable missions.

As the head of the Nonprofit Management Program at Drexel University and a board member of the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC), I know first-hand how important volunteers are to a nonprofit. In the case of WePAC, more than 200 men and women volunteer their time on a weekly basis to provide library services and one-on-one reading support to K-4 children in 17 of the West Philadelphia public schools - this translates to over 10,000 volunteer hours annually. These children deserve access to a library, a library that the public school district was no longer able to financial staff and support. Without volunteers throughout the year, the 4,000 students who are served annually through WePAC would not have access to something that most of us take for granted, a library book.

But, nonprofits need volunteers throughout the year, not just during the four-to-six-weeks during the holidays. I support volunteerism whenever people can fit it into their schedules, but I encourage you to think about in January, March, and July, not just during this time of year. Nonprofits across Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and across this country make a difference for many who would otherwise might not have access to a library book, healthcare, legal advice, clothing, a bed, or food. And these nonprofits need people like you and me to help them achieve their mission.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that volunteering is good also for you. There is the “feel good” sense of doing something good, contributing to the common good, but according to the Mayo Clinic it also reduces the risk of depression, helps people to stay physically and mentally active, reduces stress levels, helps people develop new relationships, and it may even help people live longer.

If you are new to volunteering, I encourage you to shop around to find the right charitable organization, one that aligns with your values, goals, and passions. And while there is value in the one-off volunteer experience, serving food at a soup kitchen, helping paint a school, and so forth, According to Volunteer Hub, 71% of volunteers with same organization each year. This builds stability for the organization and the other volunteers because it means consistency and it requires less training.

By all means give of your time during the holidays, but also consider aligning yourself with a charitable organization and volunteer throughout the year – not only will you be contributing to the common good, but there are added benefits for you as well.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours - may the day be filled with family and friends and plenty of food.


Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University
Posted in leadership-management-skills, professional-development-career-tips