Volunteering and Giving Back With Kids in Boston

Ideas and resources for getting kids involved in fundraising and hands-on service projects

So, you want to start teaching your kids about about showing kindness at a young age, but most volunteer programs are not able to accommodate children and it’s difficult to find the ones that do. My family is always on the lookout for ways to get involved in the community and do something good in the world, especially during the holidays. As a result, I have lots of great resources to share, whether you prefer fundraising, participating in hands-on programs coordinated by organizations like Catching Joy, or more of a DIY affair, like hosting playdates with a purpose.  

Fundraising

Kids are often inspired to act when they know they are helping other kids. There are many great options for raising money for a good cause, and these are a few of my favorites:

  • Ride your bikes (or trikes) to help find a cure for cancer with PMC Kids Rides.
  • Have a fundraiser for the Home for Little Wanderers – visit the Home’s FUNdraising page, which is full of ideas for kids to raise money. My kids had a great time helping organize a yard sale and running a lemonade float stand to raise money for the Home, and they felt good about being able to help other kids.
  • Get a “[Fun]draisers in a box” kit from Children’s Hospital of Boston and organize a yard sale, bake sale or lemonade stands.

Local Resources for Finding Hands-On Projects

If you’re looking for something more hands-on, where you and your kids can see tangible results of your work, there are local websites and organizations to help you find a match for your family:

  • Catching Joy promotes volunteerism for very young children and their families by organizing hands-on activities that kids can do to let them feel the joy of giving. Even the youngest child can create a birthday card to accompany gifts for children in homeless shelters or decorate bookmark to include with donated books, and Catching Joy organizes events to make this happen. See the Catching Joy calendar for upcoming events.
  • Boston Cares is also a good local resource. You can search for volunteer opportunities appropriate for kids ages 13 and under using their “Find an Opportunity” search tool (you will need to go to the advanced search and use the "appropriate for" filter). 
  • For teens, there is a comprehensive list of local agencies looking for volunteers on the Boston TeenLife website.
  • There are several Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries in the Boston area, and they often need volunteers. For a one-time event, consider participating in their Annual Statewide Volunteering Day, usually held the last Saturday of April. If you want to help out on a more regular basis, contact your nearest Mass Audubon location. Some of them have ongoing programs like Habitat’s Pulling Partners, a weekly after-school and summertime program that brings adults and kids together to work outside; doing trail work, helping to control the spread of invasive plants, and being part of the Weeks Pond rejuvenation project.

National Resources for Finding Volunteer Opportunities

  • Children for Children and HandsOn Network have come together to create a new program called generationOn. The website offers loads of ideas for family volunteering and provides a downloadable resource page for each project idea.
  • You can also start a Kids Care Club in your community, and the program will support your club’s efforts in several ways: A different service project is posted each month, and includes step-by-step instructions, education, meeting activities, additional resources related to the project and information on possible partners. The projects are centered on issues such as literacy, hunger, poverty, the sick, and the elderly. You’ll also get a start-up handbook and your club will be eligible to apply for grants from the organization’s sponsors.
  • Doing Good Together encourages family volunteerism and reflection on social issues. The website has a page of ‘Kitchen Table Activities” – things you can do together as a family at home to improve people’s lives, heal the Earth, fight poverty and take social action. Doing Good Together has started a new program called Big-Hearted Families, which offers simple, fun and engaging activities for families to live generously. They break it down into five simple steps - easy peasy!
  • Katie's Krops, an organization started by a girl (age 9 at the time) who grows vegetables to donate to soup kitchens, offers grants to kids between the ages of 9 and 16. Grant winners receive materials to start a vegetable garden to feed people in need in their communities.
  • The Corporation for National and Community Service has a website, serve.gov, where you can get a toolkit to create your own service projects or look for opportunities using their search tool. We found a beach clean up project (pictured above) via serve.gov as part of the National Day of Service on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
  • Another excellent resource is Volunteer Match. To search for kid-friendly projects in your area, click on “Advanced Search”, type in your zip code, and click “kids” down at the bottom of the search page, where it says “Great for”.

If you want to create your own family volunteer experiences and you’re looking for ideas and resources, take a look at these projects and a list of great books on the subject:

D.I.Y. Projects

  • Become a volunteer cook for Community Cooks, a nonprofit that mobilizes hundreds of volunteers who make home-cooked meals for hungry and vulnerable neighbors in their community. Email info@ccooks.org for details. 
  • Make blankets for Project Linus

Book List and Other Resources

  • How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist: 330 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Home, Community, and World - at No Cost! by Nicole Bouchard Boles
  • The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving by Ellen Sabin
  • The Busy Family's Guide to Volunteering: Doing Good Together by Jenny Friedman
  • Doing Good Together: 101 Easy, Meaningful Service Projects for Families, Schools, and Communities by Jenny Friedman
  • The Kid's Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference by Barbara A. Lewis
  • Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change: Courageous Actions Around the World by Garth Sundem
  • ​For teens and young adults, there's an online career resource: Making a Difference Through Volunteering & Nonprofit Careers.