Movers & Shakers: Extending a Helping Hand — Volunteer with Confidence

Even when dollars are tight, there are still those who want and do make the time to volunteer or donate. Extending a helping hand by volunteering or donating, gives you an opportunity to open your horizons, your heart and your humanity. It helps to give you a perspective on someone else’s life, as well as your own.

But there can be a never-ending chain of people either calling you at inconvenient times or stopping by your home at dinnertime to request your time or a donation. The unfamiliarity of how the charity uses the donated resources, their short and long term goals, and your confidence in the information you are being told all have an effect on your interest and commitment to these individual charities.

Habitat for Humanity, the Avon walk for breast cancer, food banks, animal shelters, domestic violence prevention, hospice and environmental causes are just a few of the thousands of charitable organizations that need donations and assistance from volunteers. With the sheer number of charities available throughout the United States, choosing a particular one can be a daunting task.

So you want to take some time to consider your skills, interest and time commitments before you make a decision about either volunteering your time or money. The next step is to research specific information about the individual charity. The largest independent charity evaluator that provides free financial evaluations and specific details of America’s charities is called Charity Navigator ( This site has evaluated more than 5400 of America’s charities and can provide details to answer many questions before you make an important decision about giving your time or money.

Charity Navigator will help you with the following:

1)    Discovery:

  • Researching your charities
  • Exploring the charity’s financial health
  • Evaluating their programs
  • Quantify and qualify what you can offer
  • Identifying charities that match your charitable interests

2)    Tips and Resources:

  • Giving in the workplace
  • What to do when a charity calls
  • Protecting yourself from online scams
  • Six questions to ask charities before donating
  • How To Stop Solicitations By Mail
  • Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors

3)    Donor’s Bill of Rights:

These were developed to “assure that philanthropy merits the respect and trust of the general public and that donors and prospective donors can have full confidence in the not-for-profit organizations and causes they are asked to support.”

A study released by the Corporation for National and Community Service has shown that volunteering can result in positive health benefits. One report indicated that some of the health benefits of volunteering include greater longevity, lower levels of depression, higher functional ability, less incidence of heart disease, as well as higher levels of happiness and self esteem. It is great to know that while you are helping others, you may experience lasting physical and mental health benefits, along with enormous life satisfaction from your contributions.

Linda Winkler Garvin, R.N., M.S.N., of Alameda, California, is Director of Health Management Associates, a health advocate and educator with an advanced degree in nursing. She assists individuals in navigating the complexities of their health problems from medical treatment, health insurance issues, chronic diseases and chronic pain. She is the author of several articles, including nutrition, health insurance, guided imagery & chronic health problems. Learn more at or e-mail her at


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