The third Monday of every January marks the federal holiday to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.
But it wasn’t until 1994 — due to former Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford and Georgia Congressman John Lewis’s King Holiday and Service Act — that the day was dubbed “Day of Service.”
Suddenly, MLK Day was no longer just time off from work and school, it actually lived up to Dr. King’s legacy by encouraging volunteerism. It was he, after all, who once said “life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘what are we doing for others?’”
(As a side note and fun fact: Philadelphia, where I reside, has the largest MLK Day of Service in the nation. See? We’re not just a city of angry sports fans.)
Luckily, LinkedIn has a new function to help you with volunteering — both on MLK Day of Service and on the daily. But there’s also a couple of other ways you can find volunteer opportunities via the interwebs.
LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace
The professional networking site launched its much-demanded Volunteer Marketplace last Wednesday. So rather than picking up trash in a park, you can use your professional skill set to volunteer and perhaps have resume material! Two birds, one stone.
More than 600,000 people have voiced interest in volunteer opportunities since August alone, a LinkedIn spokesperson told Mashable. Furthermore, over 3 million users added volunteer experiences to their profiles since 2011.
Volunteer positions or board seats can be posted to the search option — for a fee. But the good news is that these job postings only cost 10% of normal LinkedIn job postings. Those tend to run between $20-40.
What’s better yet is that the company will reinvest revenues back into the program, head of LinkedIn for Good Meg Garlinghouse said. If you haven’t heard of LinkedIn for Good, it’s a part of LinkedIn that connects professionals with “opportunities for social impact.”
I realize that the volunteer opportunities on LinkedIn have a little bit more permanency than desired for participating in MLK Day of Service. However, if you’re planning on living up to what Dr. King said about enhancing others’ lives — you know, every day — then this is a good option for you.
Another benefit to this new search option? I think long-term, it’ll help eliminate those from the full-time job pool. Let’s face it. It’s kind of disappointing to be looking for a job, come across a really cool non-profit one, and then realize it’s an unpaid volunteer gig.
This is the magic hashtag for MLK Day of Service opportunities. Although, you can probably bet people who are not volunteering will use this tag on Monday. For now, though, most tweets using this hashtag are from non-profits and workday opportunities.
I tried to see if there was a more general volunteer hashtag like “VolunteerPhilly” or “VolunteerNYC,” but those aren’t used very often. (Can we get some influential non-profits to popularize these? It seems like it would be handy!)
If you’re an organization, I also suggest using this hashtag while tweeting photos of volunteers throughout the day on Monday (both live tweet and save some to put on Hootsuite later). Because #MLKDay is being used pretty often, it would be a great way to get your organization’s name out there. Be sure to have a link to your organization in your bio and occasionally tweet a message about what others who couldn’t volunteer on Monday can do to contribute.
Another quick tip for organizations when tweeting on Monday: get and use the volunteers’ Twitter handles. Most people love pictures of themselves. This means a retweet and increased exposure for your organization.
The .gov site
While social media certainly is handy, you can check out the official government website for MLK Day volunteer opportunities.
There’s a handy search option where you can put in your area code and find volunteer opportunities near you. You can also register your organization on the site to ensure volunteerism-seekers will be able to find you.
But I cannot emphasize this enough, whether you’re a volunteer or an organization seeking volunteers: use the #MLKDay hashtag!
Lane Blackmer is a self-employed former journalist. Although she’s no longer a newsie, Lane since discovered other uses for social media such as public relations, marketing, job searching, and trying to win gift cards from her favorite local businesses through contests. Lane inhabits Philadelphia, where’s it’s not always sunny…but at least there’s cheese steaks. You can follow her on Twitter at @LaneBlackmer.