There are a lot of reasons that people volunteer their time.
From wanting to improve resumes and applications for college, to just wanting to give back to your community or someone else’s, volunteer work can make a difference for everyone involved.
Here are a bunch of ideas for finding places to volunteer, including some you may not have considered before.
Have fun, dig around online, and enjoy giving back.
Where to Find Volunteer Opportunities
Standard Community Volunteer Programs and Venues
There are a host of charities looking for volunteers in your area. Many of these are great volunteer opportunities for teens and families, though some are more geared for adults only. Be sure to check out requirements before you or your kids commit to anything.
Most churches have programs and groups that you can volunteer with. If you don’t attend a church currently, find one in your neighborhood that has programs and special events.
Soup Kitchens/Homeless Shelters/Food Banks
Some soup kitchens are great places for the whole family to volunteer, but others may be more geared towards adult volunteers. Check with your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter before bringing the kids down.
Many public libraries have programs that encourage volunteers to assist fellow students, younger kids, underprivileged folks in many age brackets, or even elderly folks. These programs could be anything from literacy programs to reading to younger kids during story hour. Check out your local library’s website, or call, to find out how you can volunteer.
Not all museums use volunteers, but most are glad to have the help. This kind of volunteering is particularly great for teens wanting to explore specific fields of industry, the museum world, history, or any number of other topics, while gaining real world experience that improves their higher education applications.
If you or your teens love animals, you may want to consider volunteering at the local zoo. Zoos like Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, the San Diego Zoo, the Nashville Zoo, and others have great volunteer programs for adults and teens, both with the animals and apart from them.
If you want to make a real difference in someone’s life, volunteering at a nursing home is the way to do it. Many folks in nursing homes are neglected and forgotten by friends and family. Nursing homes love having groups come in for special programs, sing-alongs, church services, and other events.
You could always become a hospital volunteer. There are candy striper programs, as well as other hospital volunteer options. Be sure to look into all the hospitals around you before choosing where to spend your time.
After School Programs
Some schools may not have their own after school programs, but community centers and other venues often host sports groups, homework and study groups, or play groups to help keep kids safe or off the streets while their families are at work.
There are many summer camp programs out there. Some strictly rely on volunteers to work as counselors and team leaders, while others may pay a small stipend or even an hourly wage. These can all be worthwhile for everyone involved, especially the volunteers.
You could always become a United Way volunteer, in a variety of ways that help out in your own community, as well as in neighboring locations, or across the country.
Online Sites and Databases
Before volunteering anywhere, be sure to make sure you know what the charities or venues profit. Are they actually helping people, or are they a for-profit organization?
Some for-profit groups do help people, but you may decide on different groups instead if you want to make sure your volunteer hours are only helping a non-profit group. Some places to look for opportunities include:
- Volunteer Match
- One Brick
- Hands On Network
- Network for Good
Gap Year Volunteering Programs
A gap year is that period of time when many students take a break from academics for travel, work experience, and other adventures to help direct them into the future.
Gap year programs are designed specifically for students between high school and college, or college and graduate school or joining the work force. These programs specifically help students find housing, work programs, and other opportunities and logistical help as they take their gap year.
Time to Volunteer
Now that you know some places and ways to volunteer, go online, go in person, or make some phone calls. Schedule an appointment to meet with the volunteer coordinator at a charity or venue, and work together with that person to find just the right fit.
If you’re looking online, check out calendars from groups like One Brick and find events you’d like to assist with. Or check out websites like Volunteer Match for longer-lasting volunteer opportunities at a specific organization.