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How to Volunteer

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.

Determine:

  • How much time can you commit? Weekly? Monthly? Yearly?
  • Volunteer regularly or as-needed?

Where to Volunteer

After you have decided what issue you want to support, you can start to look at organizations or projects. While most people look for something in their community, there are national and international volunteer opportunities also available. Several resources for finding volunteer opportunities include Serve.gov, volunteer.gov, and VolunteerMatch.org.

Research Your Choices

Find out more information about the organizations that interest you. Use charity watchdog groups' web sites to check on organizations, go to the charity web site, or call to get more information. For most organizations, you will need to contact a volunteer coordinator who can tell you about volunteering with the organization and get you started once you decide where to volunteer.

Find out:

  • What are the program's goals?
  • Do my ideals and values match the organization's?
  • What are their volunteer needs?
  • How do their needs and your skills and interests coincide?
  • What are their requirements for being a volunteer? (Many positions, especially those working with children, require a background check.)
  • What is the required training, if any?
  • Will there be travel or associated fees required?
  • What are the time commitments they are looking for?

Consider your needs before volunteering. The closer the match, the more satisfying and meaningful your volunteer experience will be.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 28, 2013
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