The Busy Woman's Guide to Volunteering
How to reach out and make a difference in your community—even when you're short on time.
Woman mentoring young girl
To Benefit Children and Teens
If you have an hour or two: Volunteer at one of the Salvation Army's holiday "toy stores," where the organization houses gifts for children. As a store attendant, you'll help children and parents choose free presents.

If you have one day a month: Reach out to a troubled teen mother. Project Cuddle helps young mothers and rescues abandoned babies. You might take a girl to appointments with her doctor or assist at her baby's birth. Call 888-628-3353 or visit

If you have one day a week: Be a mentor. The National Mentoring Partnership will help match you with a child in your area, and once a week you'll spend the day doing just about anything together–from going to a movie to helping with homework. Call 703-224-2200 or visit
Women shopping for suits
To Benefit Women
If you have an hour or two: Help a woman living in a crisis shelter. You can drive someone to a job interview or buy housewares for a woman moving from the shelter into her own apartment. At this time of year, these facilities are in need of gifts for the women and their children. Contact your local YWCA to find a shelter near you.

If you have one day a month: Volunteer to be a personal shopper for Dress for Success. Working at one of the various stores where the group houses its donated clothes, you'll spend the day helping disadvantaged women shop for a free work outfit. Log on to to find a chapter near you.

If you have one day a week: Be a phone counselor for a rape crisis line. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network's 24-hour hotline, run mostly by volunteers, receives more calls during the holidays than at any other time of year. Call 800-656-4673 or visit
Serving meals to a senior woman
To Benefit Seniors
If you have an hour or two: Visit a nursing home on Christmas Day or during Hanukkah. The Holiday Project coordinates visits to convalescent homes in more than 30 cities around the country. Visit for details.

If you have one day a month: Call Compassion in Action, which matches volunteers with elderly people who are dying and have no companions. You'll be asked to sit at a patient's bedside. For details, visit

If you have one day a week: Deliver holiday meals to elderly people living alone. Meals on Wheels of America has more than 800 programs around the country. To find one near you, log on to

For more ideas, log on to or call the Points of Light Foundation at 1-800-VOLUNTEER. These services will match you with an organization suited to your interests and time limits.

Next: 5 ways to use your skills to give back