ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Some Minnesotans say they've increased their volunteering in recent months, as the tight economy has forced them to cut back on the amount of money they can give to charity.
Take Julie Weaver, an insurance professional from St. Louis Park. She used to donate money to charity, but has cut back on that as she has increased her volunteering.
Weaver practices an alternative therapy called Reiki, which its supporters say uses energy to heal areas of pain. Weaver provides it for free from time to time at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
"This is what I can do," Weaver said. "My time is worth something. My skills are worth something. This is how I can give without signing a check."
The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits found that almost half of its roughly 2,000 groups surveyed in December said they had reduced donations. Only 8 percent said they saw a reduction in volunteer hours.
Linda Koelman, pastor of North United Methodist Church, sees it in the clothing closet she runs for the poor.
"We're finding that people are, instead of giving more in dollars each week, asking if there is something they can do … in the office, can they help in the clothing closet?" Koelman said.
She is also finding that more of her volunteers are also using the charity's services.
Bonnie Marshall, who directs charitable giving for the Arc of the Greater Twin Cities, said if volunteers give their time, it can help balance the books.
"So for example, pro bono legal support helps an organization offset that cost," Marshall said. "People who know about software programming or databases or people who have hands to give to support."
A volunteering spirit is nothing new for Minnesotans. The Corporation for National and Community Service ranks Minnesota third among 50 states when it comes to volunteerism. About two of every five people contribute their time.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mpr.org
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.