(ARA) - With their hectic schedules, today's busy families often find it difficult to make community service a priority. However, giving back together can be a fulfilling family activity.
Susan Crites Price, vice president of the National Center for Family Philanthropy and author of The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others, maintains that with a little time and creativity, families can make a big difference in their communities.
"Finding time to volunteer together as a family can be a rewarding experience, and easier than many think," she says. "Every community has opportunities for its members to give back, and families that do philanthropic work together often find that it can make a long-lasting impact, not only in the community, but also on their family bonds."
Price offers the following useful and easy tips for doing just that, no matter what's on the schedule.
Make time to volunteer
It may sound silly, but the most important step in volunteering as a family is making time to do it. Take a look at your monthly calendar and block off the hours that are committed already to work, school, sports practices, meetings and so forth. Look at the space left and decide what amount you want to give to volunteering - two hours on Saturday afternoon, for example, or two nights once a month. If there are no blocks of time available, consider reprioritizing your commitments, deciding what can be eliminated to allow for volunteering.
Share your passion
We all have different talents and interests. Family members will be more likely to enjoy the volunteering if they can use their special gifts. Computer whiz? Teach senior citizens how to communicate with their grandchildren through the Internet. Love to sing? Entertain at a nursing home. Avid readers feel right at home helping their neighborhood librarian.
Volunteer during your family vacation
One way to carve out time is to combine volunteer work with a family vacation. For example, you may be able to link up with a church group that is rehabilitating houses in a part of the country you'd like to visit. You can contribute your time and talents where they're needed and see the area you are visiting from a local - and personal - perspective.
Create a donating allowance
In addition to a weekly spending allowance, your family could have a weekly donating allowance - an amount to be donated to a philanthropic organization. Making a group decision to support an organization helping needy children or animals, for example, lets the whole family become engaged in causes that excite them. To take this one step further, visit the various charities together see the work firsthand. This hands-on experience could contribute to a lifetime of volunteerism and involvement.
Seek support for your good works
Look for ways to get support for your local volunteer activities. For instance, families that are already involved in community service projects now have an opportunity to get additional financial backing for their efforts through a grant program from Auntie Anne's Pretzels. Best known for its freshly baked, hand-rolled soft pretzels, Auntie Anne's is looking for 20 families who give back and make their communities better places to live. As part of the company's 20th Birthday celebration, these families will be awarded with grants of up to $20,000 to use toward their philanthropic work.
Whether it's cleaning up a neighborhood park, volunteering at a senior citizen center or lending a helping hand at a local soup kitchen, any family who is passionate about giving back together is eligible for the Auntie Anne's What a Difference a Family Makes: a New Twist on Giving Back grant program. Application forms can be completed online by visiting www.aTwistOnGivingBack.com from February 2 through April 4, 2008.
Courtesy of ARAcontent