Setting sail, again: Navy vet returns to volunteer on retired submarine

Ron Bell is one of 10 U.S. Navy submarine veterans who volunteer to lead weekly visitor tours on the USS Blueback, a sub docked outside the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Oregon. Retired from a career in scrap metal construction, Bell spoke with me about why he loves volunteering.

This post originally appeared on Next Avenue, a PBS website that informs and inspires the 50 + crowd. 


Ron Bell below deck in the USS Blueback

I had been following the USS Blueback submarine since it was retired in 1990, because that’s what we submarine vets do. I was in the Navy for four years during two wars, and worked on a few submarines similar to this one, doing everything from maintenance to communications. When I heard the Blueback was coming to Portland, I had to see it and I had to be a part of it.

So in 1995, soon after it docked, I got involved in volunteering there. From giving tours of the sub to performing maintenance — whatever needs to be done, I do it.

I’m also here because submarines are the most beautiful pieces of machinery. Once you get bit by these things, you want to know all there is about them. You can’t quit.

Checking up on the sub

The Navy still owns the Blueback, but they’ve made it non-operational. For good reason, maybe. To be honest, I don’t think they trust us old sub vets not to take it for a spin. Every year or so, they visit to make sure it’s still up to par. Which, of course, it always is, since they’ve got us on deck.

I enjoy everything about what I do down here. I love telling our tours how we lived on a sub back then and sharing old stories. People like hearing them and I like telling ’em, so it works out nicely.

In the Navy, I was in Hawaii, Australia, the Philippines — during the Vietnam War — and then the coast of Europe, especially Russia, during the Cold War when I was in a nuclear sub. We got hit by Communist missiles a couple times.

You have to go through sub school, which is a rigorous, intensive type of training. Everyone on deck needs to know how to do everything, in case something goes wrong.

The USS Blueback docked outside of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (Photo credit: Meltedplastic on Flickr

The USS Blueback docked outside of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (Photo credit: Meltedplastic on Flickr)

The joy of volunteering with fellow vets

The point is, sub vets worked hard to get to where they are. We are all very proud of what we’ve done and deeply respect each other. That’s what makes it so rewarding to work together here. Being on a sub in the Navy is something that connects us all at a very deep level.

I’ll tell ya, if you get a bunch of sub vets together for a cup of coffee after our shift, you end up sharing a lot of laughs and old sea stories, which is just the Navy term for lies.

I’ve visited amazing places around the world while on patrol, but now all I want to do is stay in the states and see this beautiful country where my wife and I live. We make time for RV trips every year to do just that.

An opportunity for time traveling

And of course, I travel back in time when I’m on the sub. As soon as I first walked on board the USS Blueback, it was just like “Boom!” I was back. And I loved it.

And I think the rest of the vets here feel the same. Being here brings back so many fond memories; it’s good for the heart.

I have to say my favorite part of volunteering is when young sub sailors come down to look at the old machinery — it’s a piece of history. They respect us more than anyone, since they know they wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for us guys. That’s why doing this matters.

Want to volunteer in your community? Search over 13,000 volunteer opportunities around the globe listed on Idealist. 

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What kind of volunteer opportunity is right for you?

Datatel Volunteers Shelving Picture Books at Centreville Regional Library (Photo credit: Fairfax Library Foundation, Creative Commons/Flickr)

During this time of year, many people want to give back. But whether you are looking for a one-time opportunity or are eager to jump start a long-term volunteer experience, you should take some time to figure out what kind of volunteering you would like to do.

  • Hands-on: activities where almost anyone can show up and, with minimal training, get started (taking tickets, cleaning up parks, planting trees)
  • Skilled: tasks that depend on a volunteer’s particular skill set or experience (using graphic design skills to help an organization redesign brochures, building or maintaining a nonprofit’s website, providing legal advice for an immigration support agency)
  • Direct service: volunteering on the front lines of the organization and likely having direct contact with the population served (delivering meals, packing food bank boxes)
  • Advisory: serving in a more behind-the-scenes role to help build an organization’s capacity to reach their mission (providing feedback on strategic or fundraising plans, helping organizations learn more about using social networking sites and tools, serving on a committee or board whose role is largely oversight and governance)
  • Online: completing projects that you can do from anywhere in the world as long as you have email or internet access (translating materials, blogging, developing websites, advising on strategic plans)

Action steps

  • Think about what kinds of activities you really enjoy or have always wanted to try.
  • Do a skills assessment to see how you might be able to lend your personal and professional expertise to an organization, issue, or cause.
  • Think about where you want to get involved—behind the scenes, on the front lines, online.
  • Don’t forget to consider what you would like to gain from this experience—and what kinds of activities are likely to help you reach your own personal or professional goals.

What kind of volunteering do you enjoy?

This post is republished from our volunteer center.


Can’t find the right volunteer opportunity? Create your own


Consider DIY volunteering (Photo credit: WAstateDNR – Department of Natural Resources, Creative Commons/Flickr)

With over 15,000 volunteer opportunities on our site, we think there is something for everyone who wants to volunteer. However, we understand that sometimes, there’s nothing that quite fits what you’re looking for. Or, perhaps you are already volunteering, and want to take on new responsibilities, but aren’t sure where to start.

If either of these apply to you, you should consider DIY/Entrepreneurial/Independent Volunteering. By honing your skills and researching organizations that would benefit from your help, you can create a rewarding experience. Here are ways to craft a volunteer experience, from our Volunteer Information Center:

Let’s say you have a project in mind. Try answering the following questions to set parameters around the project:

  • What do you need in order to be successful? This can be tangible stuff like tools or other supplies, or it can be more intangible like advertising time or online space to get the word out.
  • Who do you need in order to be successful? Is this something you’ll take on by yourself or will you be looking for fellow volunteers? How many volunteers might you need to make your idea happen? What specific skills or political/social/community connections would be an asset? How might you partner with existing organizations, staff, and volunteers?
  • How long will it take to achieve your goals? What is your timeline like? Do you have benchmarks or goals in place to measure how you’re doing once you get started? How will you measure and evaluate your progress? How will your project or role be sustained should you decide to move on—will you recruit a volunteer to take it over, seek to integrate it into an organization?
  • Why this project or role? Be prepared with research and reasons to explain why your project or role is needed, as well as, if applicable, how it doesn’t duplicate any other efforts. For example, if you’re starting a new wildlife census program and one already exists in your area, you’ll need to be able to explain to potential volunteers, funders, or media contacts why you’ve created a new one and how it’s different.

Consider checking out the Volunteer Self-Organizing tool kit by The Resource Center, Corporation for National and Community Service to help you flesh out the details of your project.

After adding a little more structure to your project, you might want to reach out to organizations. Before you do that, remember to do the following:


  • Be as specific as you can. Especially on what you might need from the organization and how your project or role fits with their mission. The more details you can provide, the more likely they are to take you up on your idea as it demonstrates that you are passionate about their cause, have done your research, and have thought everything through.
  • Be ready to talk about what skills, experiences, and connections you can bring to the table. This helps make the case as to why you’re the right person to implement the project or take on the role.
  • Be ready to commit. If you’ve got a great idea for a volunteer role or project but aren’t entirely sure you can follow through on what you promise, it may be a good idea to wait. Just as successfully creating and launching your independent volunteer role or project can be a great relationship and resume/CV builder for you, dropping the ball or doing the job poorly can potentially result in a damaged reputation for both you and the organization that invested in your vision (for more on the rights and responsibilities of volunteers, click here.)
  • Be aware that not all organizations will be ready to give your proposed role or project a go: some may be hesitant because, frankly, they just don’t know you yet. Others may not have the capacity for, or perhaps even the interest in, your idea. Don’t let this get you down though; simply go back to the research drawing board to identify other potential partner organizations in your area and give them a try. If you’ve got a great idea and a plan to make it happen, chances are you’ll find a good fit somewhere. And of course, if you still can’t find a good partner…
  • Don’t be afraid to go it alone. While in most cases it would be ideal to partner with existing organizations—they often have significant experience, connections, and resources that would greatly enhance your DIY project (as well as help you avoid duplicating efforts or reinventing the wheel)—you may in fact find that you’re in uncharted territory. However, if you’ve done your research and have a pretty clear idea about what you’d like to do and why it’s important, it’s worth taking the leap on your own.

Have you created a volunteer opportunity from scratch? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Why I left the corporate world in Canada to start an NGO in India

Each day over 100,000 people visit looking for the opportunities, resources, and community they need to create a better world. To date over 400,000 people and 70,000 organizations have joined contributing to a vibrant and generous community.

But behind these numbers are powerful stories of people who have committed to taking one step to change the world. In the interview below, we chat with Rajendra Ka Vesana, Chairman and Founder of Touchwood Ecological and Social Foundation in India.

Students at a Touchwood school (Photo credit: Touchwood)

Founded in 2006, Touchwood’s mission is to create new initiatives and opportunities for indigenous populations within the jungles of the Nilgiris in the areas of health, education, agriculture, economic development, environment and social welfare through close cooperation between indigenous people, local NGOs, government agencies and private corporations. To date, Touchwood has treated more than 18,000 people in its free medical clinics, has staffed schools in remote locations with trained teachers, and offers a variety of classes in computers, English, and vocational skills.  Read more about their programs and opportunities.

Raj uses Idealist to recruit volunteers and interns; thus far he has recruited close to 40 volunteers who help put his organization’s mission into action. Below, he shares his experiences starting and running an NGO, the power of volunteers, and the key lessons he’s learned.

What made you decide to quit your job in Canada and move to India to start an NGO?

Right from childhood I had a huge interest in wildlife. However, my family wanted me to pursue a degree in engineering in Electronics and Communication. I went on to a life in the IT industry, which took me across the globe. However, back in September 1993, I accompanied my friends to the Jungles of Sathyamangalam (a town in the Erode district in the Indian state Tamil Nadu, more known for the notorious bandit Veerappan – and now known as the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve) and that rekindled my passion for wildlife. From then on, I made sure that whichever part of the world I was in, I took a week off every two months and headed off to those jungles to learn and understand more about wildlife and ecology. In order to be more consistent in my efforts, I realised I would need a banner for my work and hence Touchwood was born in February 2006 as an NGO. My passion kept growing until I finally realized that this was my calling. I decided to quit the corporate world in the year 2010 and head to the jungles to do my bit.

When you realized you wanted to start an NGO, what was the first step you took?

In 2006 when I started the NGO I had taken a sabbatical from my job and worked in the jungles. It was a huge learning curve for me and I made so many mistakes. The place where I started my NGO, The Nilgiris, has almost 750+ registered NGO’s and almost 200 of them have been around for more than a decade. What would I do that someone hasn’t already done? What value would I deliver? What can make me different?

But I learnt from them and Touchwood grew in the hearts of the people(s) in the jungles. I did a complete reality check and decided that to help in conservation and protection, we must first take care of the humans (indigenous populations) in these jungles, for they are the true conservationists and protectors of the jungles. We must empower them with the knowledge and awareness that they are the most important link in conservation. If they are denied basic essentials in life such as access to healthcare, education, sanitation, clean drinking water etc, how can we expect them to handle such a huge task of conservation and protection? Keeping this in mind we started off with a Tribal Healthcare Center at Vazhaithotam in February 2007 within a year after we started the NGO.

What role do volunteers play in your organization? How do you support them?

Volunteers have and will continue to play a vital role in our efforts. They bring with them valuable international experience, knowledge and skills needed to design, develop and implement various programs that bring numerous advantages to the marginalized communities. Volunteers come with a passion and dedication to give back to society and to take with them what they learn. Hence there is more understanding of the existing ground reality and their willingness to put in the extra hours needed to see things through. Though we have local staff at ground level their capabilities to perceive the big picture and work towards a futuristic goal is limited and hence the need for the international volunteers and interns.

While the volunteers / interns are expected to pay for their time here with us, we provide them with in-country orientation, travel on behalf of Touchwood, boarding and lodging and free WiFi. There is a manager who supervises them and whom they report to.

Can you tell us about a success you’ve had recently?

After the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve (Mudumalai Tiger Reserve – MTR), we met with the top officials of MTR and decided to shift our clinic to a place they had given us so that it would be easily accessible to more people. I must mention the names of Dr. Rajeev Srivastava, I.F.S., Field Director and Mr. Ameer Haja, Deputy Director, of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve who have been of enormous support to us. Once with the MTR, we were approached by another NGO who wanted to work with us on healthcare projects. We started off with Free Medical Camps (75 to date) for all who live within the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and its buffer zone areas. We also provided teachers to schools deep within the rural areas where normally appointed governmental teachers refuse to travel to. These activities quickly won the confidence of the people and managed the bridge the gap that was there traditionally between the Forest Department and the people within the reserve.

Receiving care at a Touchwood Free Medical Clinic (Photo Credit: Touchwood)

We went on to form Eco-development Committees on behalf of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve to enable vocational training, skills development and sustainable livelihood options for those within these reserves. The programs were so well received by the indigenous populations that the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India conferred the Award of Excellence for the year 2010-2011 in the category of “Involvement of Local Communities and Eco-development” to Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. We are proud to be a part of this achievement and we continue to support the people within the MTR with various programs.

What advice do you have for others who want to start an NGO?

Be prepared for brick-bats [blunt criticism/ disapproval expressed by pointing out faults or shortcomings] and sacrifice, not only from self but from your near and dear ones too. It takes a lot of patience and you will see the various faces of mankind. So many will come and go; it’s hard to have someone stay with you all the way.

If you weren’t part of Touchwood, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?

A typical story: get an education, move overseas, make lots of money and create wealth and live life like what we think is King Size.  Maybe I would’ve liked it…maybe I wouldn’t have. I really don’t know. But for me now this is life – King Size!

Want to learn more about Touchwood? Visit their website or connect with them on Facebook

Please feel free to write to them at

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Five ways volunteering can help your career

Many of us volunteer to help solve a pressing problem in our communities. But did you know that the time you give to an organization can also be a great professional development experience?


Volunteering not only helps people in your community; it also helps your career. (Photo Credit: RISD Museum, Creative Commons/Flickr)

If you’re eager to advance your career, consider the following benefits of volunteering:

  • Develop new skills: Volunteering is a great way to develop a skill you may not use often in your day-to-day work.
  • Apply the skills you already have in new contexts: Sometimes we need new challenges to keep our skills sharp. Volunteering your time and talent to help an organization outside of work will allow you to leverage your skills in a new way.
  • Expand your network: People who are already involved in your target field are likely to know of new opportunities and can recommend organizations and people for you to get to know.
  • Explore new career paths: Volunteering can provide an entry-point to a new career. By volunteering, you can expose yourself to different kinds of organizations, roles, causes, and more.
  • Demonstrate passion to hiring managers: We know that hiring managers like to see genuine interest and understanding of the work their organization does, so it never hurts to have hands-on experience in the field you’d like to enter.

To ensure your volunteering experience helps you move your career forward, we’ve put together a few questions you should ask before taking on a new volunteer opportunity:

  • What are your personal and professional talents?
  • What skills would you like to apply in new ways? Keep sharp?
  • What skills or knowledge would you like to gain or learn from your volunteer experience?
  • Are you interested in contributing skills related to your career? Or would you prefer to do something entirely different?
  • Who do you want to work with, get to know, learn from?
  • Are there particular roles, careers, or organization types that you’ve been wanting to explore?

Has volunteering helped your career? Share your thoughts and experiences below!

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We need a new word for "service"


Ami points out that "Kaboom! invites people to build playgrounds," in strong, active language. (Photo: Ft. Meade Public Affairs, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Today on Fast Company, our founder Ami Dar writes:

To help more people take the leap from good intentions to action, we need better words for what we do. “Service,” “volunteerism,” “civic engagement”—even “nonprofit” and “social entrepreneurship”—are all weak substitutes for the action-oriented verbs that people actually use to describe how they work together and help one another.

Click here to read the rest of the piece. Thanks to Fast Company and Catchafire for including Ami in the “Co.Exist: World Changing Ideas and Innovation” series.

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A happy Happy New Year


Is your community's "happiness flag" showing signs of wear and tear? (Photo: Rachel Kramer, Flickr/Creative Commons)

How happy are we?

Most everyone would agree that being happy is a good thing—along with the coming of spring, a robust economy, and clean air to breathe. For most nations, there are detailed, current statistics about the weather, the state of the economy, and the atmosphere (not to mention many other things). Statistics about happiness are a little harder to come by.

The government of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has made it a priority to measure “Gross National Happiness” as a summary of national wellbeing. Since 2005 a national effort has been underway to assess not just economic activity in the nation (“Gross National Product” in economist-speak), but to attend to data from eight other “domains” that impact people’s lives, such as health, education, community vitality, and cultural resilience. The website provides the official explanation of the project and reports on the results of the calculation of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index for 2010.

There is no such national index for the USA so far. In my hometown, Sustainable Seattle is using the concept to develop a happiness index for communities. The idea is to supplement its other initiatives and build a long-term future of health and well-being. The project has two components: a set of objective statistics that create a profile of a region’s progress toward meeting goals related to sustainability, and a personal happiness survey that anyone can take. At the end of the survey, each respondent’s answers are compared to the overall response from all survey-takers. Food for thought as a new year begins.

No such thing as personal happiness?

For his 2008 book The Geography of Bliss, reporter Eric Weiner visited nine varied countries, looking for the happiest place on earth. He found some very disappointing spots, including one place where people “derive more pleasure from their neighbor’s failure than their own success. I can’t imagine anything less happy.”

In contrast, when he talked with Bhutanese scholar Karma Ura, he heard “There is no such thing as personal happiness. Happiness is one hundred percent relational.” Weiner reflected: “At the time I didn’t take him literally. I thought he was exaggerating to make his point…But now I realize Karma meant exactly what he said. Our happiness is completely and utterly intertwined with other people: family and friends and neighbors and…people you hardly notice. Happiness is not a noun or verb. It’s a conjunction. Connective tissue.”

This general point is repeated over and over again in the literature. Arthur Brooks, President of the Heritage Foundation, concludes his book “Gross National Happiness” with a quick review of social scientists’ results demonstrating that all sorts of activities that benefit others—from the most direct sorts of help to family and friends to the abstractions of making donations to help people in far-away lands—are closely related to general feelings of happiness and well-being.

Five steps to happiness

In the UK, a study for the National Health Service called Five Ways to Well-Being concluded that these simple steps would improve people’s lives in measurable ways (and sharply reduce the risks of mental illness too!):

  • Connect with the people around you
  • Be active
  • Take notice of what’s around you
  • Keep learning
  • Give

How will you do these things in the coming year?

Not to toot our own horn too loudly, it still bears saying that offers lots of opportunities for doing all five. Just a few minutes clicking through listings in your community, or in your area of interest, or for the sorts of things you want to do will turn up things to do and places to go.

With your personal profile from Sustainable Seattle’s survey in front of you, and some reflection about the Five Ways to Well-Being, Idealist’s listings are one way to make sure you have a happy Happy New Year.

Best wishes for 2012 from all of us!

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Nix the partridge: 12 ways to spread joy past December


From Flickr user AForestFrolic (Creative Commons)

No matter how you look at it, the next couple of weeks are sure to be full of a special seasonal energy. For some, that energy can verge on manic, which kind of takes the fun out of it.

For example, gift buying can get expensive. PNC Wealth Management calculates the 2011 cost of the gifts listed in the familiar “12 Days of Christmas” song at $24,263 – or over $100,000 if you decided to give a partridge in a pear tree twelve times, two turtle doves eleven times, and so forth ’til your true love’s tree would be surrounded by a jumble of 364 amazing gifts.

Here are twelve things you might do to brighten the season for yourself and others that don’t involve so many visits to the ATM.

Give time:

  • Look close to home and find a holiday project where you can pitch in as a volunteer via the search tools at the top of Just using the word “holiday” in the box marked “What?” and “Seattle” in the box marked “Where?” turned up 11 different and interesting things to do in my hometown.
  • …And resolve to volunteer in 2012. Sure, a soup kitchen is an obvious choice at Thanksgiving and sorting toys is popular come Christmas. But can you commit to things after the holiday rush, fight the winter doldrums and get to know your community better? Set up Idealist Email Alerts to stay informed about volunteer opportunities.

Give attention:

  • Reminisce with family, friends, or neighbors. Look at snapshots from holidays past, talk about the times when things went right (or wrong – hopefully with only comic consequence), and record stories of holidays past. Storycorps has DIY tips.
  • Say ‘thanks’ to someone who works in community service. Look online for the name of the board chair or ED of an organization you admire and write a brief note of appreciation for what the organization contributes to the community.
  • Surprise a neighbor with a homemade treat or hand-picked seasonal bouquet. Best of all, do it anonymously, so there’s a bit of happy mystery about how it happened.
  • Experience your holiday in a new way. Attend a community group’s concert, dance performance, or play that you’ve never been to before. Even better: Take a kid or two along with you!

Give your voice:

  • Read aloud from a favorite holiday story-book. For those who celebrate Christmas, Google Books has an 1849 edition of A Visit from St. Nicholas (or “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”) with fabulous illustrations online for free.
  • Sing! In the shower, with a group caroling in the neighborhood, in your place of worship…

If you can, give money.

  • Give cash. Times are tough for many of us, but for those who can spare even a few dollars, see my 2010 post full of tips for year-end donations.
  • Find a “Giving Tree” (or other community gift exchange for kids) and add your contribution to someone’s holiday cheer. The Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots is active in many communities.
  • Look abroad to places that need our help even once they’re out of the spotlight. Japan is still recovering from the earthquake, tsunami, and related damage to nuclear power plants and tens of thousands of houses. Haiti still struggles with the effects of the terrible earthquake there two years ago. Google Disaster Relief offers links to reliable ways to help out in many parts of the world, as do familiar newspapers and magazines; try a quick online search.

And, since I doubt your shopping list will disappear entirely…

  • Give experiences or contributions instead of objects. For theater-goers, a gift certificate for a pair of tickets. For mountain bikers, a membership in the local single-trackers club. Whatever your friends and family love to do, nudge them in that direction and you’ll get the vicarious pleasure of imagining them doing what they like best with your help. Alternatively, spread the warm glow by supporting a favorite organization in someone’s name.

Warm wishes from all of us at!

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Candy, ghosts…and year-end donations?

It’s that time of year! While many of us have been gathering treats for the goblins and ghouls who will appear at our doors tonight, fundraising and communications professionals at nonprofits across the country have been anxiously preparing their year-end fundraising appeals.

Why “anxiously”? Because the year-end appeal often makes the difference between a strong program next year and a struggle to achieve the mission. And because the sorry state and uncertain future of the economy is having an effect on public support for the work of nonprofits.


Freaky: the fact that every store is about to begin blaring holiday tunes. Not freaky: deciding which organizations to support with any year-end donations you make! (Photo: Micah Sittig, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Year-end giving is a tradition that brings satisfaction to many families year after year. But sometimes the number of requests can be overwhelming. If you receive envelopes or emails day after day, you might wonder, “Is this much fundraising really necessary?” or “How could this possibly be efficient?”

It is necessary. Donations are an important way for organizations to get the money they need for all the things that contribute to valuable programs – from the vegetables at the soup kitchen to research on the root causes of problems.

But it’s true that fundraising could be a lot more efficient. And often, attentive donors can help on that front. If you’re planning to donate this year, here are some tips to help make sure your year-end contributions do the most good.

  • Have a plan. Decide in advance how much you can afford to give this year and what causes or groups you want to help.
  • Take the initiative. If you already know the groups you want to support, make your gifts without waiting to be asked. You can send along a request that the groups you support not solicit you further; that’s a good idea at any time of year. But if you do get a year-end appeal anyway you can recycle it with a clear conscience…or pass it along to a friend who might share your interest.
  • Be clear. If you get a year-end appeal from an organization that’s not in your plan, let them know and ask that they not send you fundraising appeals. When you do send a gift, suggest that the recipient limit any future appeals to you. Helping an organization avoid the costs of making a pointless request is a small but real contribution to their work.
  • Consider volunteering. Many organizations offer special, expanded services at this time of year. Joining such a project adds a new dimension to the celebrations of the season.
  • And this year, if you can, maybe stretch a little. Nonprofits in every community are helping people cope with the effects of the bad economy. If you’re doing ok, do a little bit more so they can do their jobs better.

Let us know if you have tips to add – either from the nonprofit fundraising perspective, or the individual donor point of view (maybe both!). And happy Halloween!

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What are you doing on September 11?

By Julia Smith and Diana Hsu.


The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is just one venue seeking volunteers. Photo via (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Earlier today, we tweeted, “Wondering: How are you spending September 11th?” Replies ranged from interning at a hospital (@dva136) to supporting a fundraiser in Portland (@GeezerGallery) to attending a film festival in NYC (@thepete).

What about you? Maybe you’re opting for quiet reflection this year. Maybe, like Baratunde Thurston, you’ll celebrate a birthday. Maybe you’re leaning toward volunteering in your community.

If that last idea has been on your mind, here’s one thing to consider: This year, to mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, MyGoodDeed and HandsOn Network are organizing the largest day of service in United States history.

Below are just a few of the events and volunteer opportunities listed on Idealist for this weekend. For more ideas, visit, the official website of the September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance.


Volunteer opportunities

For more ways to get involved this weekend and beyond, search And please let us know how you’re planning to spend the weekend.

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