This is a guest post from Lucy Lazarony.
Do you love the arts but can’t afford the cost of season tickets to your favorite museum, theatre, or performing arts center? Consider volunteering. I’ve started volunteering at a local cultural arts center. And it’s been a great experience for me after just one day.
On my first day, I took a tour of Old School Square, learned about all the volunteer opportunities at the museum, the theatre, and the many outdoor festivals and concerts that Old School Square hosts throughout the year. Being an usher for a cabaret show this autumn or helping with the holiday carousel sounds like fun to me. I’m an arts lover on a budget. I can give of my time and my talents but I don’t have the bucks for big donations or concert tickets.
The membership to Old School Square is a reasonable $30 and is not required of volunteers. Concert tickets for main stage events are $42. By helping behind the scenes, I can enjoy all the excitement of live theatre or a concert performance or a holiday celebration for free.
I love being a writer but it can be a solitary pursuit. And going to a live arts performance is a great way to jumpstart my creativity and give back to the local community.
Do you prefer experiencing art in the quiet settings of museums? Be sure to check out volunteer opportunities at your favorite museum. You may be able to share your love of art as a tour guide or help out in a museum’s administrative office. As a volunteer, you’ll get the inside scoop on exhibits and have more time to spend near art collections that you admire.
Don’t have the time to volunteer at all the museums that you love? Be sure to mark Sept. 29 on your calendar. Free museum visits are available as part of Smithsonian Magazine’s “Museum Day” promotion.
And some art museums offer free admission to local residents on select days each month. For example, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla. offers free admission to all Palm Beach County residents on the first Saturday of every month. And West Palm Beach city residents receive free admission to the museum every Saturday. Just provide proof of residency such as a driver’s license or other valid photo ID and the museum will waive the $12 admission fee.
Because the arts turn on my heart more than anything else right now, I am focusing my volunteer activities on organizations and charities that promote the arts in South Florida.
In the past, I participated in beach clean ups, stocked supplies at a food pantry and made sandwiches at a center serving the homeless. All were wonderful experiences that I would recommend to others. But as with anything else, sometimes you have to listen to your heart and my heart is asking me to bring more art into my life.
Because I drive an 11-year-old car that I treat with the utmost care, I am reaching out to nonprofits and charities within walking distance of where I live.
Do you drive or take public transportation to your favorite volunteer gig? Don’t forget to deduct the cost of your travel expenses come tax time. You can deduct the cost of the gas you use driving to and from a charity and when using your car on a charity’s behalf, such as delivering food, clothing and other supplies to those in need. You can either claim the actual cost of the gas you use or claim a standard deduction of $0.14/mile.
Be sure to keep good records of your mileage and other transportation costs such as parking fees and tolls. And if you use public transit to arrive at a volunteer organization, you’ll want to keep records of your subway or bus fares. For other uncommon charitable tax deductions, check out these tips.
Volunteering is a great way to learn a new job skill, too. I’m interested in learning more about PR and so I’ve reached out to the PR folks of organizations that I admire to see if I can help. I have a friend who spent a year volunteering with AmeriCorps and this led to a full-time teaching job for him.
Whatever volunteer assignment you choose, you will meet and get to know all kinds of generous, I’m-ready-to-roll-up-my sleeves-and-help kinds of people. And the nonprofit or charity that you assist as a volunteer will be incredibly grateful for your efforts.