40115402_M (2)There are civic duties – such as paying taxes and following the laws – then there are civic responsibilities, which LearningToGive.org defines as “comprised of actions and attitudes associated with democratic governance and social participation. Civic responsibility can include participation in government, church, volunteers and memberships of voluntary associations. Actions of civic responsibility can be displayed in advocacy for various causes, such as political, economic, civil, environmental or quality of life issues.”

If you want to get involved in your community and go beyond what is expected of you as an American citizen, here are 4 ways you can fulfill your civic responsibilities beyond simply voting once every few years.

Volunteer with a Local Nonprofit

There are many benefits of volunteering, including (but not limited to): decreased feelings of loneliness, increased self-confidence, higher levels of empathy for others, and a renewed sense of pride in your civic responsibilities. If you already work 40+ hours per week or attend school full-time, it might be difficult to find time to volunteer with a local homeless center, animal shelter, educational group, or elderly assistance organization. However, volunteerism is crucial for filling in the gaps left by underfunded government programs designed to help those who need it most.

Even if you just have 4 hours per month to spare, every little act of service matters. Our elected officials cannot solve every societal problem we have — but nonprofits and their volunteers can certainly make it better if we’re all willing to lend a hand to our fellow citizens.

Donate to a Civic-Minded Organization

Whether you already volunteer or you have no time in your schedule to accommodate volunteer opportunities at the moment, another way you can demonstrate a high level of civic responsibility is by donating to civic-minded organizations. For instance, First Amendment Voice accepts donations to help protect our most fundamental rights through community outreach programs, informational resources, and annual symposiums on First Amendment issues.

Additionally, the Center for Civic Education is a great nonprofit, nonpartisan resource that empowers students across the US by providing access to high-quality civic education programs.

Help Others Stay Informed

A major problem in the US right now is the proliferation of apathy among voters and nonvoters alike. Understandably, our lives are stressful and busy, but too much focus on ourselves has led many of us to neglect the positive impacts we could be having on our communities through civic participation efforts. You don’t need to dedicate several hours per week to helping others stay informed; instead, you could start by sharing important but underreported news stories from credible news organizations on your social media channels.

As the word citizenship implies, we’re all part of a larger community and we should take pride in fulfilling our civic responsibilities instead of avoiding them to focus on matters that directly impact ourselves. Sharing news stories, spreading awareness of local issues, and encouraging others to share credible information on social media is a great first step toward fulfilling your civic responsibilities.

Get Your Community Involved

A final way you can fulfill your civic responsibilities beyond just going to the polls once per year is getting your community involved in civic-minded efforts at the local, state and national levels. This may involve asking for contributions for a charity run, encouraging friends and family to volunteer with you on one of the many days of service throughout the year, and reminding everyone on social media to get out and vote.

There are no limits to what you as a citizen can do to exceed the minimum expectations of civic responsibility. As John F. Kennedy once said, “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”