#SheSociety had the opportunity to hear from Susan Barton AM, Founder of Lighthouse Foundation about how we can donate our time to our communities.
Why is it so important that we contribute to the communities we live in?
Contributing gives you a sense of significance and belonging – everyone needs to feel as if they’re part of a larger group or community. In fact it’s part of the six human needs, the core requirements we need to lead a healthy and happy life:
1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli
3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed
4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others
Contributing to your community is a way to give back and provide support, while also bonding with others to create a sense of connectiveness.
How do you choose a cause to align with/ how to give back?
The first step is to have a chat with a trusted friend or family member to consider what you’re passionate about – where you want to make a difference. This could be anything from homelessness to education or mental health. Once you have an idea of the cause you’d like to align with, you can research organisations within that space to discuss how you could contribute.
You might also have a skill such as marketing or social media that an organisation will really appreciate. Or you might want a break from your corporate job so would prefer volunteering as a big brother or sister on the weekend – taking a child out to the movies or the park.
Consider getting on the phone with an organisation to see how you may be able to give back. This will help you work out whether your values align with theirs and how you can use your strengths or interests to contribute. Clarity around what you want is important and most organisations will be able to help you with this. How you can add value to their organisations but also how you can get the most out of the experience too. Giving back is a two-way street, you should feel good about how and where you’re contributing your time. This is why many Lighthouse Foundation volunteers have been around for 25+ years, because we make sure they value their contribution and feel rewarded for their time.
What are some ways to give your time that people might not be aware of?
There are so many ways you can contribute to your community, no gesture is too small. Volunteering your time, lending your talents or donating money are all ways you can make a significant difference.
You can join a community committee, fundraise for a not-for-profit, run a get-fit program in your local area or host a coffee morning for your friends. One area people might not be aware of but is very rewarding is mentoring a young person – whether this be a once-of or a regular commitment. You can help with education or work experience, help a young person learn to drive or take them on an outing or even a short holiday.
How do I find opportunities to volunteer?
A great way to find opportunities to volunteer is through Volunteering Victoria, or by joining a Rotary. These will offer a broad range of opportunities so you can select an activity or experience that interests you and that you might not have thought of otherwise. You can also research local organisations, visit their website or call them to see how you can donate your time. Not-for-profits are always happy to receive support, so the best place to start can be simply picking up the phone
What if I only have an hour or two, can I still make a meaningful impact?
The good thing about donating your time is that any amount is helpful – even just an hour or so can make a difference. You could join a fun run, bake a cake and drop it off to your local youth resource centre or offer your skills as a gardener. You can even just go through your belongings to see if you have anything you can donate like clothing, cooking items or furniture.
One hour might not seem like a lot but this is enough to engage with a charity and see how you can help. You might think you only have a certain amount of time but if you find the right role that fits your skills, interests and schedule you might realise you have more time after all. If you only have a short amount of time the best place to start can be reaching out to an organisation to see exactly how you can give back.
What are the benefits of sustained giving? E.g. committing to $2 a week v one-off $20?
Sustained giving is so important, it gives organisations the ability to think of the future, and for Lighthouse Foundation this means the future of our young people.
If we’re always just coming up with the money for the next meal we have no capacity to think of the next step – a solution so our young people never go hungry again. We need certainty to plan ahead. If you donate even just $2 a month, this helps us budget for the entire year because we know exactly how much money we have to work with. We know we have an ongoing income, which is the certainty we need for our future as an organisation.
SheSociety is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.