Volunteering & the Giving Mindset – It’s All Around Us!

Ilya Ushakov

Director, Programs & Volunteerism

We’re delving into a unique element of volunteering on our blog each day during National Volunteer Week. From reflections on wellness to explorations of new trends, check back each day for a different take on how volunteering continues to make the world go round. Today’s post is Part 3. Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Let’s talk about “the giving mindset.” 

Volunteering is all about a mindset focused on betterment—both for yourself and for others. Have you ever helped someone load their groceries? Perhaps you’ve given time at your child’s school to help host an event? Participated in a community league project? Picked a piece of litter from the sidewalk?

It’s natural for us to find ways to help—it reflects our natural need to feel part of a community. Part of something bigger than ourselves.

Volunteerism in its endless forms helps shape this sense of community. It’s not just the volunteers who are part of formal charities or initiatives, but also the thousands of small informal gestures that occur every day. 

We’re more often recognizing the huge diversity in how people volunteer. At its most basic level, we can distinguish between two approaches: formal and informal.

Formal volunteering most often takes place within a recognized non-profit or charitable organization. This is what often comes to mind when people think of volunteering. Formal volunteers are important for communities all across Canada. They tutor children, manage social programs, coach sports teams, coordinate other volunteers, and so much more. 

They can also come with barriers. You may have to endure an application and screening process to formally volunteer. You may need to commit to a minimum number of hours or shifts. Then again, formal programs often come with perks, be it the celebratory gala, complimentary passes, or free swag. 

Although COVID-19 has limited these types of opportunities, there are still plenty out there that you can check out on Volunteer Connector!

The unsung heroics of informal volunteering

Informal volunteering is the most common type of volunteering, and yet it’s something we seldom think about. It takes place outside of a structured organization and is what many people simply call “helping others.” 82% of Canadians volunteer informally, outside of an organization or group.

Helping a neighbour, friend, or even a complete stranger is what helps make the world a better place. Most people do not even consider that their acts of kindness are great examples of informal volunteering in action. 

Informal volunteers:

  • Babysit a friend’s child while they are busy
  • Return stray shopping carts at the grocery store
  • Pick up trash on their neighbourhood streets
  • Drive a friend to the grocery store or an appointment
  • Shovel a neighbour’s driveway during winter
  • Visit or give a call to an elderly neighbour who needs company
Do any of these sounds like something you would do?

So, perhaps you’ve been thinking: with daily health advisories and social distancing measures in place, how can I fuel my giving mindset and volunteer in informal ways?

Truthfully, it’s as simple as taking a little extra care to pay attention to the needs of those around you. Your family may need support, as much as they wouldn’t like to admit it. Even a phone call every few days can do wonders. 

How are your neighbours doing? Maybe you can offer to add their grocery list to your next shop, and then alternate going forward. Thoughtful gestures like this are especially useful during a pandemic. 

Is it finally spring? If a snowfall surprises us once again and you find yourself shovelling your walks, consider pushing that shovel past another house or two. Your neighbours would appreciate it, and if they happen to be especially vulnerable to COVID-19, you could be doing them a truly incredible favour.

If you’re eager to put your giving mindset to use, I encourage you to connect with your community league, or organizations such as the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, who are well-versed in the endless forms of informal volunteering that saturate our communities. 

Practice your giving mindset not only during National Volunteer Week, but throughout the year as well! Countless informal and formal opportunities are waiting! Share your experience and creativity around informal volunteering using #NVW2020 and #yegvolunteers