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Ring in the Year Right

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It's that time of year again! We're less than a week away from ringing in a new year. It's the time of year for a personal inventory, a year-in-review. You ask yourself: What did I accomplish this year? Where did my priorities lie? Did I live this year the best way?

This personal inventory usually leads to talk of New Year's resolutions. Every year people make a number of different resolutions -- lose 10 pounds, exercise more, quit smoking, save money.

This personal inventory also leads many people to think about the world around them -- people taking a moment to ask themselves: What can I do to make it even better? Every year, people make resolutions to do good for others and make a difference. These women and men choose to give back in an effort to create the kind world we all want to live in. What a great way to ring in the year!

As I'm sure many of us have experienced, keeping resolutions isn't always easy. Sticking with your resolution takes time and energy, a will to see them through. All resolutions have a pay-off, a sense of accomplishment -- giving back and volunteering is no exception! Volunteers -- here are some hints to make volunteering a great experience in 2011:

Stay Engaged. Look for volunteer opportunities at organizations in which you are personally interested. Animal lover? Talk to representatives from your local animal shelter. Do you have any connections to non-profits in the area around you? Talk with representatives there and see how you can help. When you already have an interest in the type of organization you're working for, it makes the experience much more enjoyable.

Try subscribing to a news feed that focuses on social good/volunteering to stay engaged. It's a great way to learn about and find inspiration on unique, creative ways you can make a difference. For example, The Chronicle of Philanthropy always has great stories about ways people around the world are giving back. Seeing an e-mail or reading the newsfeed every day will provide you with inspiration, a little help to remind you of your New Year's resolution and why you decided to give back in the first place!

Give the Time You Have. People are busy. That doesn't mean there can't be meaningful volunteer opportunities out there for you. Websites such as WomenOnCall.org help match volunteers with specific skills-based opportunities that allow you to share your skills and expertise with non-profits... for free! If you don't have months to dedicate to planning a large-scale gala for a non-profit, ask if they need help with a specific aspect of the event. If your free time is limited, focus on giving back one hour at a time. Other websites, like Volunteer Match or Spark are also available to match you with volunteer opportunities.

Set Goals. After deciding how much time you have to volunteer, set realistic goals for yourself. Will you volunteer once a week? Once a month? Hold yourself accountable to those goals. Make a note on your calendar, set up reminders. Schedule volunteering just like you would a business meeting or dinner with a friend.

Strength in Numbers. Encourage your friends and family to volunteer as well. Having a network of people who you know are volunteering and who know you are planning to volunteer throughout the year could help you stay motivated. Suggest that your company support a volunteering initiative.

Use your social networks to find others committed to similar causes and build your network. Not only will you form new connections with other volunteers and organizations, but you'll also have an outlet to share your stories and experiences.

Non-Profits, there are millions of women and men who are willing to give of their time using their skills and experience to advance the causes of the non-profit sector free of charge! The new year also provides you with time to assess your needs, and take a closer look at how you use volunteers in your day-to-day operations.

There are many ways you can use volunteers. Need ideas? Join WomenOnCall.org and contact our staff to help you brainstorm ways to use professional volunteers for your non-profit. Short, high-impact volunteer opportunities can make giving back realistic and efficient for busy professionals -- and they can also turn a struggling non-profit into a well-run business that is even better able to serve their community.

How will you give back in 2011? How will your non-profit be ready to welcome new volunteers? WomenOnCall.org will be asking this question on Facebook and on Twitter with the hashtag #GiveIn2011. Share your resolution with us, and read what others are resolving to do in 2011.

I can't think of a better way to start 2011 than with your resolution to give back and make a difference!