Volunteering has immediate benefits for your community and yourself. Studies consistently show volunteering can increase your own feeling of connectivity, boost personal fulfillment, and grow networks, all while helping improve others’ lives. What could be better?
If you want to help your community — and improve your own well-being in the process — here are a few of the many ways lawyers can give back to their communities, with and without their law degree.
“I Want to Use My Law Expertise to Help People”
If you want to help while flexing your law degree, try these options:
Be a Mentor:
Mentorship is a terrific opportunity to be involved in the community.
Sure, you can mentor an up-and-coming law student — that would be great — but working with a school-aged kid, maybe through Big Brothers Big Sisters or a similar organization, provides a positive role model while also giving you a sense of fulfillment from knowing you’ve legitimately helped a person.
Boost a Non-Profit:
Mentoring not your thing? Consider volunteering for a non-profit close to your heart. You can apply your law knowledge, or, if you’d like you can do more grunt work, lead a letter-writing campaign, cold call for donations or organize their supply closet. Sure, it’s not glam, but it’s helpful — and that’s the point here.
Whatever route you take, dedicating time and energy to a good cause is always a good idea. Not sure where to start? The website Charity Navigator is a great resource for people interested in identifying worthy and well-run non-profits.
Stop Domestic Violence:
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner. That’s about 10 million people per year. That’s 10 million too many.
Whether you draw on your law background or not, lending your voice, time, or expertise to end domestic violence is always a good idea.
A novel way to use your legal skills for good: help authors with legal questions!
For every Stephen King, there are 1,000 struggling writers facing unique legal situations, including rights management, copyright questions, or defamation cases.
If you love the written word and want to help authors achieve equitable pay and treatment, the Authors’ Guild and similar organizations are great collaborators.
“I Want to Help — but not as a Lawyer”
Not into being a lawyer after hours? Here are a few volunteer routes to consider.
Volunteer at an Animal Shelter:
All right, if you want to do good but don’t want to do anything legal-related, what about working at an animal shelter? Many need help picking up donations, keeping kennels clean, walking dogs, and helping manage adoption applications.
In addition to providing an essential service for often underfunded organizations, you can bring some joy to a stray animal. Who knows, maybe you’ll find one to take home and provide a forever home.
To find a shelter near you, visit the ASPCA.
Make Cards for the Elderly:
Loneliness is a very real condition. According to the CDC, feeling socially disconnected contributes to poor health, including heart attacks, can contribute to dementia, increases risk of suicide, and raises likelihood of strokes. This is particularly true among people of color, LGBTQ people and immigrants who are already socially isolated.
To help combat this scourge, consider spending an afternoon or weekend writing or designing special notes for a local nursing home. Even if you don’t know who you’re specifically addressing, a note saying “I’m thinking of you” can go a long way to the reader.
Or, if you’d like to get even more involved, volunteer with a local elder care organization to visit a nursing home or be set up with an isolated community member near you.
This is a great route if you don’t really want to deal with people but still want to help.
In addition to collecting clothes for the homeless or canned goods for the hungry, you can collect books for the library, makeup for women’s shelters, or gently used professional clothes for organizations that help people with the job interview process.
Another great option: build a free pantry on your block or street. That way you can help on a consistent basis while also enlisting help from neighbors.
Build a Home:
Before the pandemic, about 600,000 Americans were without a permanent home. That number’s surely risen since the pandemic.
If you want to help end homelessness while being active, check out groups like Habitat for Humanity to Rebuilding Together. They actually get you involved in the home-building process, which is much more hands on than just donating money at a gala.
It’s incredible how fulfilling it is to work alongside a team to create a new, safe space for a grateful family. Plus you can learn new skills, like how to grout tile, run electrical wire, or put up walls.
Roll With Meals on Wheels:
Another great cause: Meals on Wheels or another organization that helps feed or care for our communities’ most vulnerable.
According to Feeding America, 42 million Americans (1 in 8) suffer food insecurity, and that includes 13 million children, so working with a group that provides food is definitely needed these days.
You’ll be doing a good deed while helping improve people’s day-to-day lives. It’s instant gratification in the best way possible.
Share Your Non-Legal Skills:
Are you an ace baker? Know how to play the piano? Can you knit a blanket in the blink of an eye?
These and almost all other skills can be taught to community members for free — it’s a great way to share knowledge while also keeping your own skills sharp.
To start, try putting out a call on Facebook or a local community center.
Be a Coach:
Along the same lines, if you’re a great sports player and have time to coach a local team, reach out and see if they need some help. You’ll help your community, get some exercise, and, who knows, maybe win the big championship!
Here’s another great option for people who want to help people but don’t want to deal with people: Pick up trash.
Just grab a plastic bag, some rubber gloves, and hit the road.
Sure, it’s not a glamorous activity but it helps your community and seeing you may inspire someone else to do the same.
Go Plant a Tree:
What, do you think trees plant themselves? Well, they do — but not enough of them.
There are plenty of places that need new trees to regulate microclimates, combat climate change, and for beauty.
If you want to help your community and the planet, we suggest reaching out to Keep America Beautiful or a similar organization to plant a tree.
Run for It:
If you’re a runner — or someone who wants to be a runner — consider training for and participating in a charity race.
You can do what you love and/or get fit while raising money for a good cause, including fighting breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, and hunger.
It’s a major win for everyone.
Do Your Research:
Want more volunteer opportunities? Consider checking out Volunteer Match, Idealist, and even LinkedIn — all sites that can help connect you to groups or causes in your area.
Also, the local news is a great resource on this front: Reporters in your area often highlight in-need people or communities who will benefit from your kindness.
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