01/02/2014 12:03 EST | Updated 03/04/2014 05:59 EST

Make Year-Round Volunteering a 2014 New Year's Resolution

As the dawn of a New Year begins, many of us are making New Year's resolutions both of a professional and personal nature. From eating healthier to taking steps to get that promotion, individuals around the globe are cleaning up the detritus from 2013 and making new resolutions for 2014. In the drive to create new personal and professional resolutions, we should not forget about resolutions to help those less fortune around us.

2013 has been a year of instability for many. Even though we have seen successes on many fronts including a recovering economy, there have also been many setbacks. Globally, long term unemployment remains stubbornly high, and after many years of decreases, poverty is on the upswing. While many are slowly recovering from the Great Recession, there are still many more that are struggling to make ends meet and it is important that we not forget that as we all attempt to rebuild our futures.

While individuals can volunteer in many ways (from providing physical labour to a food bank to providing much needed strategic and operational support for a non-profit fundraiser), these one-off activities are much like New Year's resolutions; great on paper( particularly at the beginning of the year), but lacking in execution as the year passes on. We all know that the need has never been greater than before, so how do we fulfill the promises that we make at the beginning of the New Year? The simple answer is to take the existing ad-hoc approach to volunteering and transform it into active, year-round volunteering. Active, year round volunteering is the simple premise of building volunteering regularly into an individual's schedule, where it just becomes another routine task to be accomplished throughout the day, month or year.

For too many individuals, volunteering is something that they want to do but aren't able to find the time to do it, especially when it is something that can be pushed off into the future. Unfortunately, this attitude doesn't lend itself to volunteering and leads to a negative outcome for both the volunteer and the non-profit. Volunteers who merely use their volunteering activities for a check on their task list aren't really the volunteers that non-profits want over the long term.

With the increasing number of non-profits and the rise of social entrepreneurship, there is increasing competition for quality volunteers. While there will always be a need for manual labor, the need for high quality volunteers who are capable of providing strategic support has never been greater. Today's non-profits need volunteers who will stay with them longer, and not just in terms of financial donations but in terms of setting up processes and systems to ensure the strategic & operational funnel remains full.

As competition increases in the non-profit sector and the requirements for transparency and accountability grow exponentially, more and more sophisticated resources are required to ensure non-profits are capable of responding. Just as for-profit organizations need the best and the brightest to compete, non-profits increasingly require volunteers who can provide more than just manual labor. Not only do volunteers need to provide increasingly consistent donations, they also need to be able to assist in setting up and fulfilling the processes and systems required to keep non-profits effectively serving the needs of all their constituents, from their users to their donors. This is where active, year-round volunteers prove useful.

An active, year round volunteer is an individual who accomplishes the following for a non-profit:

1. Volunteers who consistently and regularly volunteer throughout the year: Increasingly, non-profits need volunteers who are willing to put in regular and consistent time and effort to meet the increasing calls for transparency and accountability, as well as the growing demands for non-profit services.

2. Volunteers who provide more than manual labor through strategic and operational support: While manual labor will always be of importance to non-profits, they increasingly require assistance at a strategic and operational level. From navigating increasingly complex government non-profit regulations, to demands for additional paperwork to demonstrate accountability and transparency, non-profits require additional support and expertise.

3. Volunteers who are passionate about the cause or effort they are supporting: Passionate volunteers are the types that non-profits covet. Not only is their passion infectious and beneficial to a non-profit's internal morale, but it also has additional benefits. From encouraging the volunteers' friends and family to support the non-profit, to the additional indirect marketing and promotional benefits, passionate volunteers can bring benefits over the short, medium and long term.

If active, year round volunteers are what non profits need, how does an individual become one? The key elements to transform from a passive volunteer to an active, year-round one are:

1. Volunteer for Activities You Are Passionate About: Active, year-round volunteers volunteer with non-profits and causes about which they are truly passionate. This enables them to view volunteering less as work and more as happily "paying it forward".

2. Volunteer to Learn and to Teach: Volunteering isn't just about manual labor but also about learning new things and passing values and ideas onto others.

3. Don't Think You HAVE To Complete Your Volunteer Activities But That You MUST Complete Them: The first step is to remove volunteering from the annual resolution checklist and move it onto the monthly schedule. An active, year-round volunteer makes time whether it is monthly, weekly or daily to volunteer on a regular and consistent basis.

As individuals around the world start 2014 with fresh hope and reinvigorated action, let one of those actions be to become an active, year-round volunteer.