How to Volunteer
If you are interested in being a volunteer, it’s important to think about how you can get the most out of your experience. Ask yourself what you hope to gain from volunteering. Is it experience for a future job or to improve your resume? Is it something you want to do for personal satisfaction, or to interact with other people with similar interests?
In order to gain any or all of these things, you must also think about what you are prepared to give. If you decide that you do not have the time to volunteer, you can give money directly to an organization whose mission you wish to support. Your employer may have suggestions on volunteering; some companies have specific charities they encourage employees to support. They may match donations to those charities. Other companies may offer paid time off for volunteering.
Decide What Kind of Experience You Want
Get a clear idea of what type of volunteering opportunities would be best for you based on personality and skills. Do you want to:
- Work directly with people? Or work behind the scenes?
- Use the expertise you already have? Or learn new skills?
- Work on local or global issues?
Think about what you're good at doing, what your interests are, and what kind of projects you enjoy. If you like writing, for example, you may be able to help an organization with its written materials such as newsletters. If you are an organizational wiz, you might be able to help organize events and fundraisers or take on administrative tasks.
If you identify the things you want to avoid as a volunteer, you will be happier in the projects you do eventually choose.
What Issue Do You Want to Support?
To find the right organization, you first need to decide what issue you would like to support.
You should select an issue that is meaningful to you and reflects your ideals and values. If you are passionate about a subject, you will be a more involved volunteer.
When choosing an issue, you may want to consider the emotional toll it may take. Working as a volunteer in some settings can be traumatic. Be sure you won't become too burned out to continue if you choose an opportunity that provokes a strong emotional response.
Decide on Your Commitment
It’s important to decide how much time and energy you can realistically put into volunteering. When you commit to volunteering, the organization depends on your efforts to help it achieve its goals.
While it can be very tempting to over-commit in the beginning, don’t do it. Start small and see what kind of follow-through you can offer. You can always add extra duties or hours later.
- How much time can you commit? Weekly? Monthly? Yearly?
- Volunteer regularly? Or on a special event or need basis?