11 Ways To Use Your Skills To Do Good

By Kate Rockwood

If you can whip up a tasty dinner, know your way around a spreadsheet, or play a mean guitar, you have a skill worth sharing.

Are You Crafty?
hands knitting blanket
Surround a sick child with comfort and warmth by volunteering as a "blanketeer" for Project Linus. Knitters, quilters, and sewers have made nearly five million blankets, which are donated to children's hospitals, shelters, and service agencies.

Are You Something Of A Dog Whisperer?
Stuff some treats in your pocket and visit an animal shelter. You could help train dogs in the basics of obedience. Or partner with your own pooch in an animal therapy program and bring some puppy love to schoolchildren and the elderly.

Are You Sporty?
Grab your whistle and head to the YMCA. Local branches rely on volunteers year-round to run low-cost youth sports programs, from T-ball for tots to basketball for teens.

Fancy Yourself A Bit Of A Julia Child?
cooking with kids
Tie on an apron and teach the basics of healthy cooking on a budget through No Kid Hungry's Cooking Matters, a program that offers hands-on instruction (at churches, grocery stores, and community centers) to low-income families.

Do You Have Writing Chops?
Help kids and teens get beyond the grammar grind of there, they're and their. Tutors with 826 National chapters assist students with their writing, giving them new ways to express themselves and succeed in school.

How About Computer Skills?
Help your community by joining civic-minded techies in the Code for America Brigade. Local groups turn government data on education, crime, public transportation, city services, and spending into online tools for the public -- for instance, an app that maps all public art in the area.

Can You Carry A Tune?
sick child in hospital smiling
Share the song in your heart by belting out a ballad or playing an instrument at hospital patients' bedsides with Musicians on Call. Do you get stage fright? Volunteer to escort the artists on their rounds.

Got The Gift Of Gab?
Meals on Wheels sustains housebound seniors with not only home-cooked dinners but also regular check-in phone calls from volunteers who enjoy a good conversation.

Do You Have A Green Thumb?
community garden planting
Cultivate community spaces and novice plant-lovers alike by joining the American Horticultural Society's Master Gardener program. After training, which typically takes place at a local university, volunteers can give horticulture tours and show other plant enthusiasts how to create more bountiful gardens.

And I Love Sharing What I've Learned
Work with a new small-business owner and put your wisdom to good use. MicroMentor has played matchmaker to more than 3,700 American entrepreneurs who need professional advice on building a successful company. Mentors offer guidance -- online or in person -- for three months or longer.

No One Ever Falls Asleep During My Presentations
Help a not-for-profit make a powerful impression online and in print. The Taproot Foundation connects designers and marketing professionals (as well as experts in strategy, finance, and IT) with pro bono projects, such as launching a Web site for a teen shelter.

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Life Skills You Can Learn Fast... For Free