If you’re checking out this blog, chances are you’re probably an avid volunteer – or at least looking to become one.

There’s surely no shortage of opportunities to do so.  In fact, it’s the overwhelming abundance of people and organizations in need that can make finding the volunteer opportunity that suits you more daunting than it should be.

That’s where VolunteerMatch comes in.

The site, which has been referring volunteers since 1998, matches you with opportunities by your location (city, state or ZIP), and a few keywords of what you’re interested in (i.e., environment, children).

This two-pronged search format can 1) if you know what position you want, eliminate the frustration of not being able to locate one of that type in your area, or 2) if you have a set location you want to work from, expand your potential positions by providing everything available in that area.

And, if you’re unable to volunteer regularly in person, VolunteerMatch’s homepage has a “Virtual Opportunities” section to find something that can be done from home or over the internet.

If you already work for a nonprofit, you can register to use VolunteerMatch as a recruiting tool.

You can also make a monetary donation to keep VolunteerMatch running strong.

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I admit it, I’m a book junkie.

The bookshelves at my apartment are crammed full.  The desk is piled high.  Novels open to various pages are stacked on top of my nightstand.

I can’t imagine not being able to have them.

So, when I stumbled upon this list of nonprofits that provide books to underprivileged populations and areas, I decided to do some investigating.

If you have some extra copies in good condition lying around, consider donating to any one of these initiatives.

1. Name: Books for America
Mission: Promote literacy and “life-long learning” by distributing books and educational materials to organizations.
Serves: People of all ages.  Recipients include adult and youth literacy programs, youth centers, homeless shelters, hospitals, inner-city and rural schools, military bases, assisted living communities for seniors, veterans’ hospitals, women’s shelters, and hospices.
How to help: Donate books, have a book drive, volunteer.

2. Name: Bring Me  a Book
Mission: Provide easy access to new, multicultural, quality hardcover children’s books in multiple languages.
Serves:Underserved preschools, elementary schools, after-school programs, shelters, community centers, and businesses both in the U.S. and in foreign countries.
How to help: Donate.

3. Name: Reach Out and Read
Mission: Promote literacy as a standard part of pediatric primary care; train doctors and nurses to advise parents about the importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric checkups from 6 months to 5 years old.
Serves: Clinics throughout the U.S.
How to help: Donate books, make a monetary donation, volunteer.

kiva

In the U.S., a couple hundred dollars might not buy much more than a pair of designer jeans.

In a developing country, it could be enough to permanently lift someone out of poverty.

Kiva is a micro-lending organization created with this idea in mind.  Its self-proclaimed goal is just that: “connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.”

Kiva allows lenders to browse profiles of budding entrepreneurs, whose qualifications are verified by Kiva’s partnering microfinance institutions, before choosing recipients for their loans.

Lenders can also sort profiles by gender, country, etc., if there is a specific group or region they’d like to support.

After making an immediate loan through the site, lenders can choose to receive email journal updates and track repayments.  Kiva also maintains a blog.

Once repaid – and Kiva has an incredibly high repayment rate – the funds can be loaned to someone new.

Every time I visit Kiva’s site, I marvel at how such a simple idea is bringing about such steady change, literally one person at a time.

What you can do:

It’s simple: according to the U.N., the global population could be as high as 11 billion in 2050 or as low as 8 billion, depending on what programs are put in place now.

This might be one case where we don’t want to aim high.

Population Connection, formerly Zero Population Growth, is one organization trying to keep that projection low.  It advocates for stabilizing the world’s population at a level sustainable by Earth’s resources.

Population Connection divides its initiative into three key goals:

  1. Protecting the planet, as, according to the organization, “population growth stretches natural resources to their limites.”  Millions of people born each year intensify negative effects on the environment, such as food and water shortages and pollution.
  2. Ensuring social justice, since larger populations make disease control and poverty reduction increasingly difficult to achieve.
  3. Defending women’s rights by supporting programs that sponsor family planning education and access to contraception for women, so that women may have a say in their own childbearing decisions.

Improvement in any of these areas could have profound effects on population stabilization.

Courtesy of Population Connection.

Courtesy of Population Connection.

How to get involved: