How to start volunteering and love it
Find the right fit to help your community and feed your passion.
Want to make a difference through your volunteer work? The secret is to find the right fit. Consider these elements to find volunteer opportunities that can turn into the ultimate passion project.
What is your volunteering goal?
"Giving back" is worthwhile, of course, but defining what you want to accomplish can be more helpful. In addition to making an impact in the lives of others, some volunteers may also take on a volunteer role to learn more about their community, make new friends or broaden their professional network. Your goal doesn't have to be broad or long-term. In fact, narrow and small in scope is a good way to test out the waters. For example, "feeding the hungry" is admirable, but how about "organizing a holiday food drive" as a more specific effort?
What groups are working toward your goal?
Nonprofits have a mission and there may be different groups that work on different aspects related to your goal. For example, one group may work on helping homeless veterans, while another may do outreach to homeless teens. VolunteerMatch can be a great resource to help you find volunteer organizations that might fit your goals. In addition, you can create a volunteer resume that lists your experiences, interests and skills so the organization can get an idea of who you are.
How do I learn more?
After you have decided on the organization that fits your interests, consider setting up an interview with the volunteer coordinator. Learning about the organization, their mission and different opportunities they have available for volunteers, will give you an idea of whether it’s a good match for what you are looking for.
If you want to volunteer individually, here are some ideas to get you into the spirit. For example, in August you could donate some much-needed school supplies and then later in the year you could help in your local school. Use this printable list of monthly volunteer ideas to help stitch together 12 months of giving.
Volunteering time commitment
Be honest about your schedule and limit your initial involvement. It’s tempting to commit to large chunks of time, especially when you’re starting out as a new volunteer, but small commitments can help you ease into the right volunteer match. To help ease the volunteer process, try to attend a volunteer meeting and interact with other fellow volunteers so you can understand the type of commitment you will need to make moving forward.
What if a group isn't the right fit?
It is okay if you feel that the group you are volunteering at is not a good fit for your skills or interests. If you find that you are not making an impact or you don't feel valued, do not hesitate to move on. Use it as a learning opportunity in trying to find an organization where your volunteering passion fits. Be sure to talk with neighbors or others in your community about potential volunteer opportunities.
Ultimately, finding something where you can feel connected to the organization can help you make a bigger difference in the lives of others. Whether you volunteer to mentor a child, take a volunteer vacation, help at an animal shelter or spend time helping in a community garden, to name a few, these opportunities to give back can also be very rewarding for you.