How to make time for volunteering Giving back always feels good. Whether you’re picking up litter or planting trees, with every good deed, you’re helping out the community. Now, if only you had more time to do so! We talked to Volunteer Toronto and found out how to make time to volunteer. By Marie Waine ©istockphoto/mangostock You have no free time. We know that. Between work, running to the store, feeding the kids, driving to and from practices, keeping fit and making sure your family is happy, the last thing you have time for is something you would like to do, right? Well if that one thing you’ve been looking to add to your life is volunteering, then you’re wrong! Ainsley Kendrick, communication and event specialist at Volunteer Toronto, says that everyone can find a way to volunteer and give back to the community, no matter what their schedule is like. The trick is to ask yourself three important questions: Why do I want to volunteer? What skills do I already have? And what am I already doing? Why do I want to volunteer?Take a second and think about it. Where did your initial desire to volunteer come from? Were you inspired by a friend? Or is there a great cause you feel attached to? Kendrick recommends thinking about your passions. She says the initial desire to volunteer usually stems from passions you already have and want to pursue further. What skills do I already have?When you love something, you tend to nurture and grow it. This is true for our children, our relationships and even our skills. “Usually, going from a skills-based approach, you’re able to find something you can easily insert yourself into,” says Kendrick. For example, if you love social media, you are probably outgoing and have great communication skills. You may practise those skills every day and they’ve become second nature. In this case, a position as an outreach volunteer may not feel like an added job. What am I already doing?You’re probably doing a lot. Every day is busy. One of the easiest ways to fit volunteering into your schedule is by looking for opportunities in your everyday life. “If it’s about giving back to the community, it’s starting with what you’re already doing and stepping it up with just a little bit more,” says Kendrick. “Do that little bit extra to give back.” If every Monday night is your child’s soccer practice, instead of simply sitting on the sidelines waiting for practice to end, offer to be assistant coach or to bring snacks for the team. Get started There is no better time than now to start volunteering. You simply need to find the right activity. Many major cities have volunteer websites, like Volunteer Toronto, where you can easily find non-profit organizations that are looking to fill specific jobs. Getinvolved.ca offers a Canada-wide search. Or you can simply start by asking around and putting your name out there, suggests Kendrick. “Definitely reach out to organizations where you live. They are always looking for volunteers and for help with something,” she says. Community benefitYes, people appreciate your work. You can see it on their faces and you can feel it on yours – but, by volunteering, you are doing so much more than creating smiles. “You’re reaching out, you’re helping to build a better community, you’re helping to grow your community and you get to know people in the community,” says Kendrick. Explore and be rewardedVolunteering not only benefits the community, it benefits you, too. “It’s about reaching beyond the scope of your world and not just getting up and going to work every day,” says Kendrick. “You’re gaining new skills and experiences, which I think is important to be able to thrive in life.” Through these new experiences you may find new interests you want to pursue. According to Kendrick, volunteering gives you the opportunity to explore, with the option of a long-term or short-term commitment, unlike paid work. Make it a family affairWith all of the benefits for yourself and your neighbourhood, why not ask your kids to get involved and help them grow, too. Because people are busy, but still want to give back without missing any family time, family volunteering is the perfect match. “Organizations welcome that because it’s creating a culture of volunteerism in your family,” she says. “You can plant trees or help build houses all together, it can be a great activity.”Check out some helpful resources to connect you with great volunteering opportunities. If you love animals, you could try volunteering at an animal shelter!