It’s easier than ever to volunteer these days, especially with a plethora of nonprofit charities standing up for excellent causes. People around the globe are taking initiative as they improve their local communities and focus on global efforts.
If you’re ready to get your hands dirty, so to speak, and donate your time to an organization, then it’s essential to find one that aligns with your values and skills. That might sound like an impossible task with so many organizations to choose from, but this guide is here to help you find the perfect match.
First Things First
Before even touching the mouse on your computer, take the time to think about what causes mean the most to you. Are you an avid supporter of protecting the environment, a dog lover who wants to help abused animals, or maybe you hope to raise awareness about a specific disease and find the cure?
Pick three things you are incredibly passionate about to narrow down your list. This passion is essential to your success as a volunteer. Without it, you might find yourself regretting this decision altogether.
A lot of individuals underestimate the hard work and time that goes into volunteering. Some do it as a way to make themselves look better or gain a little fame but heading into this venture for the right reasons makes a world of difference when it comes time to act.
Taking the First Steps
After deciding on three causes, your next step is to conduct a little research. Which organization supports those causes, and which ones align closely with how you feel about them?
You’re bound to find dozens if not hundreds of opportunities available for all three of your choices but reading each organizations mission statement and viewing the type of work they have done in the past will narrow down your list even further.
An environmentalist, for instance, might find that they prefer the Greenpeace over the World Wildlife Fund for Nature. If you want to combat breast cancer, then a more targeted group like Breast Cancer Action might be a better fit than the American Cancer Society.
The choice is ultimately yours, but make sure you know what an organization stands for well before you decide to volunteer. The closer their goals align with yours, the more pleasant of an experience this will be.
How to Find Organizations
A Google or Yahoo search is only going to bring up some of the more popular volunteer opportunities. Instead, get serious and use a sight like Volunteer Match to discover a wealth of other choices.
Their site features everything from arts and culture-centric groups to those who focus their efforts on education and literacy. By conducting a quick search, you can not only find organizations but the positions they need to fill.
This gives you the opportunity to see if your particular skill set matches what an organization needs. Maybe you’re a marketing whiz who can raise awareness about a charity event, or a website designer who can guarantee more traffic to their site.
These groups need physical labor, too. So, keep an eye open for laborious tasks where you can get hands-on with the cause of your choice.
Alternatively, United Way Volunteer offers a similar style search. However, this one provides filters for activity types, skills, and categories to help pinpoint the ideal organizations you can contribute the most to. Pick a handful of groups and write their contact information down.
Pick Up the Phone
We might live in the age of texts and emails, but nothing gets the job done like a phone call. Reach out to the organizations you’ve chosen and let them know you’re eager to help. Tell them what skills you can bring to the table, as well as how many hours you can contribute per week.
Don’t become discouraged if your first pick doesn’t work out. Sometimes your particular skills aren’t needed at the moment but might be essential down the road. Other times, time constraints between work or school might get in the way of an excellent opportunity.
Keep reaching out to different organizations until one finally clicks. When it does, it’s a magical feeling.
Putting in the Work
At this stage, you’re officially a volunteer. Congratulations! Now it’s time to do the work you promised.
Organizations often encounter volunteers who cancel at the last minute, drop deadlines, and arrive late to important planning events. Put your best foot forward as you would with any job and prove to them that you care as much about this cause as they do.
Don’t be afraid to take the initiative when it’s needed. Go the extra mile in setting things up or calling donors. This is your chance to make your dream volunteer opportunity come true.
Volunteering and keeping your grades up in high school can take up all of a teen’s time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it if you’re passionate about a cause. There are dozens of volunteer opportunities for teens out there just waiting for a motivated individual like you.
While aspects of transportation, safety concerns on certain projects, and time available to volunteer might hinder some opportunities, hundreds of organizations feature specific youth programs. Here are some ideas of how you can help out:
- Take care of animals in a local shelter
- Assist children with special needs in recreation programs
- Offer book readings at your local library
- Be a friend to a senior in a nursing home
- Write encouraging letters to patients at your nearby hospital
- Become a hospital volunteer
- Lead guided tours at a nearby museum
- Maintain social media accounts for a non-profit
If you aren’t entirely sure what you want to do, keep an eye out for local fundraisers and events. Organizations could always use someone at a bake sale, community fairs, cleaning up the neighborhood or putting together décor for an event.
Don’t let your age hold you back. It’s never to early to find volunteer opportunities where you can lend a helping hand.
Get the Family Together
Whether you’re an adult or a teenager, don’t be afraid to get the entire family in on an event. Consider sorting food at a local food bank, serving meals at a nearby homeless shelter, or participate in a charity walk. The more, the merrier, right?
What to Expect When Volunteering
While you might be energetic and excited about this new opportunity, remember that it is a lot of hard work. For every rescued puppy you see kissing a volunteer on television, remember that there are even more times when that volunteer risked getting bit.
A snapshot of families putting up houses looks like fun but constructing an entire living space is weeks’ worth of sweat-inducing labor. Those looking into elderly care may have to serve meals, which sometimes requires you to feed these individuals as well.
It isn’t all roses, but the work is some of the most rewarding you can imagine. Aside from that, there are a few things you’ll have to do before you can actually start volunteering.
Apply, Interview, Background Checks
Most organizations require you to fill out an application with basic information such as your contact information and availability. Afterwards, an interview is usually conducted where you can learn more about each other and have any questions answered.
If the interview goes well and you both decide that this will work out wonderfully, the organization will conduct a background check. This helps them screen out individuals with criminal and violent backgrounds that could cause harm to their cause.
Next up is training week. Most events are structured, and your position in them will require you to have a little training in order to do the job to the best of your ability. These are often mandatory but will help you fall right into your role within the organization.
Sing the Contract
Most volunteers, depending on the type of work, are required to sign a contract. This is an agreement between you and the organization stating your responsibilities, the hours you promise to commit, and a pledge to their cause.
After you’ve completed these essential steps to fully qualify for any volunteer opportunities, you can begin diving right into making a difference.
Finding the Best Opportunities
By following this guide, you are on a sure-fire path to finding the ideal volunteer position that aligns with your values. Once you’ve settled into the volunteer way of life, you will find that making a difference in your community, nationally, or globally changes your perception of the world.
Fueled by your passions, the work is more rewarding than nearly anything else you can find. If you want to become the change instead of just talking about it, then get out there and find your perfect cause!