This time of year is by far the busiest for most nonprofit organizations. Many of them offer critical services which, during the cold fall and winter months, become even more necessary — not to mention the additional fundraising pushes in September through December who make it possibly to continue operations in the new year.
Meanwhile, for a lot of creative entrepreneurs, the New Year is fairly lean. Photographers, writers, and designers usually use the winter months to take a much-needed break, as many of their clients aren’t quite ready to start working toward Q1 yet, but have mostly wrapped up their Q4 needs. Which makes it the perfect time for artists and makers and doers to to start volunteering their time and services.
Volunteering time is a good option for freelancers, who frequently have more flexible schedules than most workers. Spending a few hours in the middle of the day at your neighborhood food bank or clothing drive can help take your mind off work — a practice which can be the source of some of the best ideas — as well as be an opportunity for professional development.
“Never underestimate the power of networking,” explains the blog for Idealist, a website that helps connect nonprofits with volunteers and employees. “Volunteering offers the opportunity to cross paths—as well as, in many cases, quickly bond—with people from across your community, including many with whom you may otherwise not have had contact.”
If you don’t have a lot of time, or you’re more comfortable doing work that involves your line of skill, artists and makers can also donate their services.
For nonprofit organizations, great branding can be the difference between helping people in need and not being able to keep the lights on. Donating design or photography services can help ensure that nonprofits can continue to do the good work they need to do, and also get the message out in a way that’s attractive and effective. One great example is pet adoptions; animal shelters have found that using quality photos of the pets helps get them adopted. As a result, many animal shelters are often on the hunt for photographers who are willing to donate their time and resources to take portraits of the animals. This is great experience for a new shooter, and also provides an extremely helpful service.
Volunteering also has physical benefits, which can impact your creative ability and work.
According to a report authored by the United Way, “over three-quarters of people who volunteered in the past twelve months told us that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier—in fact, most say that one of the reasons they decided to volunteer was the belief that doing volunteer work would be good for their health.” Health benefits including cardiovascular activity and increased serotonin levels make those who volunteer their time and services feel happier, healthier, and more a part of their community.
Artists rely on thriving communities — and thriving communities rely on people helping out where they can. After a busy year, the idea of spending more time working may seem exhausting. But for creative entrepreneurs, the benefits of volunteering are so many, there’s really no reason not to do it.