Any interest in a MeFi day of service or volunteering? July 10, 2016 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Basically, I think it's rad that the folks in Chicago are cooking brunch for families at the Ronald McDonald House and think it'd be cool if other folks did similar things in their own cities, perhaps on one designated day. Just a thought, would like to know if that's been suggested before.
posted by kat518 to Etiquette/Policy at 8:15 AM (25 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

This kind of thing comes up for organizations at Christmastime. Most volunteering situations don't work so well for one-day enthusiasms like this. The organization and regular volunteers have to reorganize around the one-day people and spend all their time directing them and trying to make them feel helpful. On the whole, not much useful work gets done.
posted by zadcat at 9:03 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Many cities have a volunteer network organization (Hands On is the big national one, it's Chicago Cares here) that exist to facilitate single-day projects for organizations. It's a good place to start for organizing those sorts of events.

Also, some organizations (like RMDH) are well-suited for one-off volunteer experiences. We've had a good run at our brunches and they are in other cities, too.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:20 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oops, meant to add: I'm personally really glad that garlic started it up. It's been a lot of fun and it's kept me more committed to my other schedule of legal aid work, too.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:21 AM on July 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

I was thrilled when people in other parts of the world posted ice cream socials in IRL so if someone designates a day, I'd post an IRL meetup for volunteering somewhere here in Portland that could handle us, and I wouldn't expect so many people to turn out that it would be a big deal.

I think the value in having a group of people volunteer at a new place that's local to them is in learning about it as a resource both for volunteering and awareness.
posted by aniola at 11:10 AM on July 10, 2016

Sometimes there are volunteer events that require a ton of one-off volunteers. I can think of several examples just off the top of my head.
posted by aniola at 11:12 AM on July 10, 2016

I recognize that most organizations are unable to accommodate one-time volunteers but there are some opportunities out there. I'm in DC and there are usually one-off volunteer activities around 9/11, which I believe was designated a day of service. Events are also good opportunities for one-off volunteering and in the fall in DC, there's a 5K fundraiser for some organization literally every weekend. Also, similar to RMH, there is at least one organization In DC that feeds homeless people and accepts donations of sandwiches made by volunteers off-site. Those are just some thoughts if the rough day of service idea appeals to folks.
posted by kat518 at 11:53 AM on July 10, 2016

I think it would be a lot better to coordinate locally with groups that can use regular volunteers or single-day volunteers and already have a plan for that, rather than arbitrarily declare a MeFi Day of Service that might end up being a poor use of resources locally.

As someone with a career in nonprofit organizations, I am not a fan of "days of service" of the kind we have at Earth Day, MLK Day, and for corporate audiences. As mentioned above, these end up creating busy work. Volunteers tend to want to do something hands-on and visible, and since it's a one-off project, we actually tend to gin up work that are generally accomplished more steadily in other ways. There are a few things for which this isn't true, but on the whole, having on your task list "invent projects for groups of 10 to do for Day of Service" is not the best application of talent and energy.

Check out local organizations that can use help with an ongoing program on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis, and do it under the MeFi flag. Much better than coming up with a date and asking orgs to create a new program that looks and feels like it's helping but isn't really getting much done and may in fact be distracting from mission-based priorities.
posted by Miko at 12:12 PM on July 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Or, you know, just do something. Pick a park or green space and pick up litter. Pick an intersection and plant flowers seasonally. Make up kits of things homeless people can use and distribute them or place them around where they will be found. Go the guerilla/tactical urbanist route and just make your city better without involving organizations.
posted by Miko at 12:14 PM on July 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

OneBrick has one-day volunteering opportunities in the SF Bay Area, Seattle, Denver, Detroit, Chicago, Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, DC, and New Orleans. I don't know how big they are in those other cities, but they do usually have a lot of things available in the Bay Area.

Or local Mefites could pick an organization that always needs donations of money or goods and work toward that together; for example, the Prisoners Literature Project in Berkeley takes book donations (and also welcomes in-person volunteers, including groups of more than 4 if arranged in advance).
posted by wintersweet at 12:24 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it would be a lot better to coordinate locally with groups that can use regular volunteers or *single-day volunteers and already have a plan for that*

I thought that's what I said but if that wasn't clear, yes, that's what I mean :-) I've been a non profiteer for a long time and a lot of the organizations I've worked for have events for which we need dozens of volunteers in addition to our regulars.

I like the idea of just doing something but that can be counterproductive, even if done with the best of intentions. I'm reminded of this fellow who was just trying to make something better.
posted by kat518 at 12:27 PM on July 10, 2016

Another thing a group of people could do is answer phones for the local NPR affiliate during pledge week.
posted by kat518 at 12:48 PM on July 10, 2016

I just infodumped a bunch of local places that take volunteers (at varying levels of commitment) into my profile. There's always new people coming to town 'round these parts, so maybe it'll be helpful for someone at some point.
posted by aniola at 1:32 PM on July 10, 2016

Inspired by the campaign in response to the Yik Yak abuse around one campus, and recognizing that emotional labor is real labor, what about a one-day initiative to make positive social media comments and model pro-social behavior online? People could even coordinate to find a corner or corners of the net that would most benefit.

It would be crucially crucially important to also document what a good contribution in this vein would be. There are a lot of ways that missteps could be made, of course, and figuring out how to describe and document a lot of those would be a huge contribution. I'm too tired to try to elucidate anything specific right now.

However, an effort like that seems very appropriate to Metafilter, and something that could be done by anyone anywhere, and that could have genuine value without having to worry about it being makework.
posted by amtho at 2:58 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Please consider serving your community as an election officer on Election Day. Please.

Although some tiny jurisdictions may not need an influx of new folks, I can guarantee that most electoral bodies in the country would fall over themselves to get a flood of new people interested in working as nonpartisan election officers on Election Day. Lawyers, partisan party and candidate reps are a dime a dozen. What's needed are unflappable, ethical, energetic ordinary American voters willing to serve in precincts with the worst shortages.

Every agency will be supplementing their (aging, spent, overwhelemed) core volunteers with more bodies for this one. Many are introducing new tech; there are very real concerns that there will not be enough competent officers to use it. Also bilingual officers are in tremendous demand.

So if you're looking for a one-and-done that could have an enormous impact on your community, neighborhood, neighbors, and family members, considering working in a precinct. The 70+ yr old election workers (average age in my jurisdiction) doing their 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. shift would appreciate some young whippersnappers.

And if you decide you don't want to serve, the least you could do is bring them something when you go to vote. Donuts. Trail mix. Fruit platter. Coffee. Sometimes snacking is the only thing that keeps you upright during the day, but there's just no time for it. (Or peeing.)

Something else to consider. Until we go to internet or all mail voting, this is the way America votes - in person. When the folks who have been administering elections for 30+ years die off, who is going to take over?

You know who worries about that kind of thing? They do.
posted by ezust at 3:34 PM on July 10, 2016 [13 favorites]

can i just use this space to give a hearty thank you to the brunch cooking folks at the ronald mcdonald house? i lost my favorite cousin more than a decade ago to cancer - she was from a very small town and was immediately transferred to a far away big city to deal with her care. her family was/is very poor. the ronald mcdonald house was such a wonderful space for the family to receive the care they needed to support the care she needed. they spoke fondly of the volunteers and keep in contact with some to this day. you are doing important work that will give comfort in ways you don't even know. thank you.
posted by nadawi at 5:51 PM on July 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Most volunteering situations don't work so well for one-day enthusiasms like this.

But some do! My better half deals with one yearly. Just make contact and see if/when you can help!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:51 PM on July 10, 2016

I think this is a great idea- I'd love to see people volunteering under the MetaFilter name, wearing their t-shirts, or maybe some custom buttons or something (or anonymously, that's cool too). It's been something I've been meaning to dream up some ideas and post a MetaTalk about, so thank you! There's some organizations that have online or phone type volunteer activities, for people who can't or would prefer not to do a meetup. At one point I had a list of a few ideas, but the only one I can think of off the top of my head is The National Map Corps. Unfortunately, it looks like it's down until August.

I'd definitely be up for this type of meetup in the Portland area! I understand an ongoing commitment might be ideal, but just getting the momentum started to get some people experimenting with volunteer work, seeing what might be a good fit for them- I think it's worth it.
posted by Secretariat at 7:14 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would be up for something like this in the Boston area.
posted by peacheater at 6:32 AM on July 11, 2016

I'm glad garlic is getting a shoutout here! The RMDH meals have been an excellent addition to the Chicago meetups and garlic has been a really big driving force to get people more socially/civically/etc involved through volunteering and donating and just generally being great. He's a mensch.

Also, if anyone wants to use this day of service as an inspiration to get more involved in something on a long-term, regular basis, I'd like to note that Girl Scouts is an extremely progressive and inclusive organization that needs all the dedicated volunteers it can get to lead troops in (especially) low income/minority/immigrant areas. Memail me if you'd like more info on GSUSA or help finding your local Council!
posted by phunniemee at 7:02 AM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Another place to find organizations looking for volunteers is
posted by soelo at 7:28 AM on July 11, 2016

Another thing a group of people could do is answer phones for the local NPR affiliate during pledge week.

Well, since WAMU is dumping Bluegrass Country, there's no reason to help them anymore.

But we should get together in DC and make sandwiches for Martha's Table!
posted by OmieWise at 10:01 AM on July 11, 2016

Totally off-topic, but:

> Well, since WAMU is dumping Bluegrass Country, there's no reason to help them anymore.

Wait, what?! When did this happen? Why???

(But there's still Hot Jazz Saturday Night. God I love that show. My partner has an alarm set to remind me to stream it in Chicago, which shows how much he loves me.)
posted by Westringia F. at 4:19 PM on July 11, 2016

This weekend they announced they were going to try and sell it for several million. If it doesn't sell by November, they will shutter it.
posted by OmieWise at 5:42 PM on July 11, 2016

This weekend they announced they were going to try and sell it for several million. If it doesn't sell by November, they will shutter it.

That's horrible! I missed the announcement.
posted by anya32 at 6:26 AM on July 12, 2016

Feed My Starving Children is in the midwest and will take even small groups as a one-off. You show up and spend a couple of hours packing food aid for hungry people in America and around the world. They are Christian but there's no proselytizing and no strings attached to the aid; they're pretty awesome (and Charity Navigator has given them a top rating for more than a decade).

We are going today, in fact, with some young cousins and a few adults. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:02 AM on July 12, 2016

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