Countless nonprofits and organizations throughout the U.S. rely on the goodwill of volunteers and donors – philanthropy – to help support the work they can’t achieve using only their budgets. Many programs such as food pantries, afterschool programs, libraries, arts organizations actively seek assistance, and donations of time and money help them keep important programs running. Philanthropy is a significant part of Maine’s economy.

Even small amounts of money, or giving just a few hours a month, is valuable. A $5 contribution from a paycheck once a month adds up over time. Some employers identify a program the whole company can support during the holiday season or in a given year and invite employees to donate directly from their paychecks if they choose to participate. Money donated in this way usually stays in the community and benefits a local cause in the area near the business. Donations can be reported on tax returns, and sometimes will lower the donor’s overall tax bill. (See “Taxpayers can lower taxable income by giving to charity” in ProsperityME’s financial column)

In addition to helping others, volunteering helps the person who is giving time. Volunteers meet like-minded people and have an opportunity to try new skills that might be personally and professionally beneficial. If new to the U.S., people can practice their English skills and begin to learn the culture of American workplaces. They can build their resumés and demonstrate the importance of helping others, something employers like to see.

Volunteers may choose familiar activities (such as a nurse who spends time at a local retirement home) or something brand new (a dog lover who cleans stalls at a horse rehabilitation center). Many important organizations in communities all over Maine are seeking volunteers. A quick internet search for volunteer opportunities, or talking to friends and acquaintances, can lead to an opportunity that fits with someone’s lifestyle and interests. Volunteering adds a new dimension to life, is fulfilling, and helps these organizations thrive. When community members work together, they build relationships that can spark new initiatives in the future.