How can I persuade my  friend to come volunteer with me?

Advice on how to make the world better.
Dec. 29 2009 11:13 AM

Serve With Me

How can I get my friend to come volunteer with me?

The time for making New Year's resolutions is nigh, and volunteering to help the less-fortunate is always a popular vow. Unfortunately, lending your time to charity can mean spending less time socializing with friends. How to reconcile the two? Ask a friend to volunteer with you. In January, Patty and Sandy Stonesifer recommended workarounds for the busy volunteer and ways to make community service a group activity.The column is reprinted below.

Dear Patty and Sandy:
I'm your average twentysomething with a boyfriend and friends and a desire to give my time to charitable causes I believe in. I'd very much like to volunteer with a friend, but we're all busy in our different ways. How can I convince a friend that getting together once a week to volunteer at a soup kitchen will bring us closer and benefit our community at the same time?



Claire, I bet that at least one of your local food pantries has evening hours—and serving there once a month with your friend would not only fill an obvious need but allow you to work side by side with other volunteers while learning a lot about your community from the clients that you serve. If that doesn't appeal to your friend, find out what organizations or issues she is already passionate about—what gets her going when she reads the news; what causes does she give to at the office or around the holidays? Compare that list to your own and find a way to focus whatever volunteer or community-action work you pursue as a duo around one of those shared issues. That will make your volunteerism a natural extension of your life, learning, and friendship.


I think it's a great idea to volunteer with friends, especially if that means you'll be prone to do it more often. I try to volunteer a morning a month with a rotating group of friends and colleagues and find it's a great time to catch up on what's going on in their lives and benefit our community at the same time. That said, my group is made up of women who independently decided to volunteer and just happen to be able to do it together. Cajoling, and even guilting, your friend may work, but she may end up embarrassing you when she routinely misses her shift or ends up dropping the gig a month later.

Once a week may be a hefty commitment for lots of twentysomethings (and everyone else!), so why not start by asking your friend to come with you to a one-time volunteer day and see whether you can get her jazzed about it? Sites like Volunteer Match, Idealist, and even Craigslist have good ways to search for opportunities in your area. Or if you feel like you could benefit from some human contact as you choose your cause, there are volunteer centers in almost every community. As my mom said, finding something that you both find interesting and fulfilling could certainly help energize her. Do you both love kids? The beach? Africa? Use this shared interest to find something that works for both of you.

Another idea is to step back from the idea of direct service and volunteer by working on a campaign for a candidate or piece of legislation you care about—or by bringing together a group of friends to talk about different issues. I have a friend whose book club focuses on reading timely, socially conscious books. Actively engaging yourself and those around you in discussions about the world can be just as important as direct service … though it may not satisfy your desire to interact with those in need.

Do you have a real-life do-gooding dilemma? Please send it to and Patty and Sandy will try to answer it.

In our ongoing effort to do better ourselves, we're donating 25 percent of the proceeds from this column to—an organization committed to raising public awareness about the issues of global poverty, hunger, and disease and the efforts to fight such problems in the world's poorest countries.

Become a fan of Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Patty Stonesifer is the chair of the Smithsonian Institution Board of Regents and a senior adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she was president, then CEO for 10 years. She spent the first two decades of her career in the technology business, where her last job was senior vice president at Microsoft.

Sandy Stonesifer works on issues related to adolescent girls' health at a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Dear Prudence
Sept. 18 2014 6:00 AM All Shook Up My 11-year-old has been exploring herself with my “back massager.” Should I stop her?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?