With the holiday season upon us, many nonprofits are looking for volunteers to help staff special programs and services, as well as continuing to recruit folks to help with day-to-day activities. Thus, December is the perfect time to talk about this particular aspect of civic engagement.

People volunteer for a variety of reasons: it makes them feel good, they believe in a cause, they like spending time with other volunteers or clients, and they want to give back in some way. However, many might not consider what they’re doing to be civic engagement. Nevertheless, volunteering is an effective way to promote quality of life in our communities, and is a core component of civic engagement.

In 2009, 63.4 million Americans volunteered, 26.8% of the U.S. population. Check out this map to see what percentage of your state volunteered compared to the rest of the country.

If you’ve been thinking about volunteering, there’s no better time to get started. Places like your local school, food pantry, animal shelter, and more are always looking for help. The possibilities are virtually limitless, especially because many organizations also recruit volunteers that can work remotely, often on technology-based projects, such as website design and social media. The best thing about volunteering, is that there’s something for everyone. For volunteer opportunities in your area, check out VolunteerMatch, Idealist, or your local newspaper.

For those of you that already volunteer, what are your motivations? Do you think your actions contribute to the civic health of your community?

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