How to Make a Difference in Your Community in 2020

As the city turns the chapter to a new year, individuals around the Five Boroughs will seize the opportunity to better themselves and their neighborhood in 2020. With thousands of active community organizations to choose from, New York City is full of opportunities for New Yorkers to make a difference in their community.

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From improving the criminal justice system to supporting local arts organizations, here are some local organizations to get you started:

Opportunities to Make a Difference in NYC

Criminal Justice Volunteer Opportunities in NYC

The Mayor’s Office has made strides to improve equal enforcement of the laws in NYC, however, there is still room to improve public safety and justice. To advocate for criminal justice reform in NYC, connect with the following criminal justice organizations:

The Innocence Project: The Innocence Project works with officials on the national, state, and local levels to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and fight for a better criminal justice system. In a given year, the Innocence Project evaluates over 6,000 cases and works on nearly 300 active cases at a time.

Correctional Association of New York: The Correctional Association of New York (CANY) advocates for a more humane and effective criminal justice system. Their efforts include fighting for better women’s care in prisons and alternatives to inhumane imprisonment. CANY tracks key issues of concern and analyze trends through intensive data collection and communication with people in prison.

New York Civil Liberties Union: The New York City Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) defends civil liberties in New York state through a multi-layered program of litigation, advocacy, public education, and community organizing. In 2018, NYCLU represented over 1,000 immigrant children in government custody in a case that inspired a major policy renewal in New York.1

Open Society Foundations: Open Society Foundations' mission is to build vibrant and tolerant democracies that are accountable and open to the participation of all people. Today, the Open Society Foundation supports projects in 120 countries and provides thousands of grants every year.2


Environmental Volunteer Opportunities in NYC

Because of its size, NYC faces significant environmental issues such as high emissions and food waste. While government agencies and officials are actively searching for solutions for a more sustainable city, public cooperation is key. Join the fight to protect the environment in New York with these local environmental volunteer opportunities:

Greenpeace: Greenpeace uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems. They also promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future. Currently, the organization is fighting to mitigate the impact of global warming, save ancient forests from destruction, and revive our oceans.

Bike New York: Bike New York uses its platform to educate residents on bike-riding techniques, maintenance, safety. With more bikers on the road in NYC, the organization is advocating for a greener, more sustainable city. In 2018 alone, Bike New York taught bike skills to more than 28,000 New Yorkers.

New York Restoration Project: New York Restoration Project (NYRP) believes that nature is a fundamental right for every New Yorker. They work to manifest that right by partnering with local communities, public agencies, and the private sector to make a safer and healthier city. In early 2018, New York Restoration Project reported receiving results of a study we commissioned that found that neighborhoods with high NYRP activity and investment had more than 200 fewer felonies per 40,000 residents annually compared to similar neighborhoods where they have no presence.3

City Parks Foundation: City Parks Foundation is dedicated to transforming parks into dynamic, vibrant centers of urban life through sports, arts, community building and environmental education programs for all New Yorkers. Their programs are located in more than 350 parks, recreation centers, and public schools across New York City, reaching 425,000 people each year.

Amazon Watch: Amazon Watch protects the rainforest and advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin by partnering with indigenous and environmental organizations. During their 2017-2018 fiscal year, they provided strategic advice to Ecuadorian indigenous partner groups during high-level negotiations with the government.


Healthcare Volunteer Opportunities in NYC

In early 2019, Mayor de Blasio announced that NYC will guarantee comprehensive healthcare to every resident, regardless of economic or immigration status.4 Alongside the city’s efforts, local organizations are determined to better the lives of residents by offering safe spaces and resources to help them heal. Make a difference in someone’s life and become a healthcare volunteer in NYC:

Healtheo360: Healtheo360 is a community for patients living with chronic conditions to find support, encouragement, and information. The healtheo360 online platform also makes it easy for users to search for stories by a medical condition and find the most relevant stories fast.

National Kidney Foundation: The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease. They advocate cutting risks for the disease by following a healthy lifestyle with adequate nutrition and exercise. In 2019, the National Kidney Foundation partnered with CBS to increase awareness about living kidney donation.5

Path2Parenthood: Path2Parenthood helps people create their families by supporting outreach programs and educational information. P2P is especially involved in reproductive health, infertility treatments, and family-building options including adoption.

NAMI-NYC: The National Alliance on Mental Illness in New York City (NAMI-NYC) provides much-needed support and resources for people living with mental illness and their loved ones. Their network of well-trained volunteers is devoted to making mental health care services accessible. These efforts include their nearly 30 ongoing support groups for people living with mental illness and for their family members.

Boomer Esiason Foundation: Boomer Esiason Foundation is committed to heightening awareness, education, and quality of life for those affected by cystic fibrosis while providing financial support to research aimed at finding a cure.


Arts Volunteer Opportunities in NYC

NYC is a melting pot of cultures and this is represented in its wide variety of arts organizations. These local groups are dedicated to educating the NYC population on how its diverse population expresses itself through the arts. Support their efforts and become an arts volunteer with the following organizations:

Irish Arts Center: The Irish Arts Center has been keeping Ireland’s history and culture alive in NYC since 1972. The center gives tourists and New Yorkers alike the opportunity to explore the best of Irish heritage through film, literature, music, and theatre.

Ballet Tech: Ballet Tech is committed to helping prepare students in underserved communities for careers in performing arts, with an emphasis on classical dance. Through the generosity of donors, students receive high-quality, tuition-free ballet education.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater brings African-American culture and American modern dance to the world. Members get access to exclusive opportunities like passes to watch rehearsals and complimentary classes.

American Institute of Architects: The American Institute of Architects works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings. The organization also advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing.

Eyebeam: Eyebeam provides a platform for artists to show society’s relationship with technology. Through exploratory process and emotionally compelling output, Eyebeam believes that artists can help us visualize and realize a more just future.


Didn’t see your passion listed above? Don’t worry! Discover more opportunities to volunteer in NYC and make a difference in your community.


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