How to Find Your Next Volunteer Opportunity

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According to a Washington Post headline, “Millennial are actually more generous than anybody realizes” (post website citation).  So, what’s your hold up? Unsure of who, when, where?  There are literally millions of volunteer opportunities out there.  So how do you find something that you actually enjoy? Here are a few tips to help guide your giving way…

Niche

What’s your niche?  You most certainly have one.  Whether it be your favorite hobby, or your actual job, your niche is something you’re great at, and can easily used to help others.  Many area shelters, community centers or (…) are in need of trained individuals to help others get back on their feet.

Hobby and Career Expertise Frequently Needed:

  • Cooking
  • Art
  • Paint
  • Music
  • Yoga
  • Reading
  • Resume help
  • Computer training
  • Administrative work
  • Social Media
  • Website building and upkeep
  • Speaking skills instruction
  • Mentoring
  • Health and wellness education

And remember, volunteering doesn’t have to be spent person to person.  By volunteering in ANY capacity at your local organization, you’re helping to advance the goal of the greater good.  Sometimes, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home! From crisis support texting or calling hotlines or something a little calmer such as knitting or sewing blankets for hospitalized babies; you can make a difference, from your couch!

Time commitment

Volunteering your time and “being a good person” doesn’t mean you have to make a continual commitment.  ANY time spent giving back is appreciated and is a wonderful, selfless thing to do.  There are many opportunities to volunteer on a case by case basis.  Once you’ve chosen an organization, be honest about the time you are able or willing to commit. Do not be offended if some places decline your offer of volunteering, certain jobs require consistency and continuity.

Some examples of singular volunteer opportunities

  • seasonal clothing drives
  • soup kitchen
  • reading to elderly or kids (however I’m sure they appreciate consistency for relationship building, although, it is generally not required)
  • beach or park clean up
  • donation drive at work or with friends (hygiene products are ALWAYS welcomed)
  • donating blood
  • ASPCA
  • medical mission
  • teaching mission

Examples of routine commitment may be

  • Mentorship
  • Continued job training, building on lessons from the session prior
  • Work with children and older adults
  • Local hospitals

Location

Are you looking to travel to a new place to volunteer your time?  Are you excited to immerse yourself in a new culture while giving back? These are options available to you!  There are many organizations through which you get the opportunity to travel, often abroad, to give your time.  Frequently though, these opportunities come at a cost.  Proper research is KEY in selecting an organization.  Unfortunately there are many shams out there.  Taking your money only for you to get there and realize there is little or no opportunity at all; so do your research before signing up.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

On the flip side, are you looking for convenience?  You want something you can walk to in 5 minutes because we’re lucky you’re getting out of bed at all on a Saturday morning?  Or, you’ll be damned if you’re getting back in the car after your commute home from work?  That’s fine. Know your needs, and then build on that.  Wanting something close has the positive affect of helping you get to know your community and involved with people you may very well pass on the street, daily.  You might meet a neighbor who’s been next door for years!

There is nothing wrong with wanting something that is little or no commitment, not on a Sunday morning, and not a 30 minute drive around town to get there.  The fact that you want to give back at all is greatly appreciated.  There are so many opportunities available to you and so many people with needs greater than our own- any help is so much better than no help.

My Experiences

I’ve been so lucky to be involved in volunteering, albeit sporadically, throughout my life. I started pushing wheelchairs at a local hospital in the summer as a high school student and the following year I spent my summers playing with kids at our local Children’s Hospital.  I’ve volunteered with the ASPCA, getting to walk and play with dogs all day! (What’s better, all the fun none of the cost or mess!?).  I have built houses with Habitat for Humanity and with Esperanza International in Tijuana, MX.  I’ve used my skills as a RN volunteering in the medical tent at many marathons and local races; as well as with the Special Olympics World Games and Operation Smile, taking me to Oaxaca, MX.  Lastly and most recently, I took up a Saturday morning volunteer session with Reading For Kids, a local organization in Los Angeles, CA.

If you feel the desire to give back- don’t let time, distance, or the unknown stop you.  There’s opportunity for all kinds of schedules, locations and skills.  So grab your friends and make a difference.

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