Sometimes, the hardest part of volunteering can be finding an opportunity that fits your personality. Below are some great tips to help you get involved, and to make your volunteer experience a more enjoyable and rewarding one.
Tips To Help You Get Started Volunteering
Research the causes or issues important to you. Look for a group that works with issues about which you feel strongly. There is no end to the creative avenues for volunteering, just as there is no end to the need for volunteers.
Consider the skills you have to offer. If you enjoy outdoor work, have a knack for teaching, or just enjoy interacting with people, you may want to look for volunteer work that would incorporate these aspects of your personality. This sort of position allows you to jump right into the work without having to take training to prepare for the assignment.
Would you like to learn something new? Perhaps you would like to learn a new skill or gain exposure to a new situation. Many nonprofits seek out people who are willing to learn. Realize beforehand, however, that such work might require a time commitment for training before the actual volunteer assignment begins.
Don't over-commit your schedule. Make sure the volunteer hours you want to give fit into your hectic life, so that you don't frustrate your family, exhaust yourself, shortchange the organization you're trying to help or neglect your job. Better to start out slowly than to commit yourself to a schedule you can't or don't want to fulfill.
Nonprofits may have questions, too. While most nonprofits are eager to find volunteer help, they have to be careful when accepting the services you offer. If you contact an organization with an offer to volunteer your time, you may be asked to come in for an interview, fill out a volunteer application, or describe your qualifications and your background.
Consider volunteering as a family. Think about looking for a volunteer opportunity suitable for parents and children to do together, or for a husband and wife to take on as a team.
Virtual volunteering? If you have computer access and the necessary skills, some organizations now offer the opportunity to do volunteer work over the computer. This might take the form of giving free legal advice, typing a college term paper for a person with a disability, or simply keeping in contact with a shut-in who has e-mail.
I never thought of that! Many community groups are looking for volunteers, and some may not have occurred to you. Here are some volunteer opportunities that may not have crossed your mind:
Give voice to your heart through your giving and volunteering! Bring your heart and your sense of humor to your volunteer service, along with your enthusiastic spirit, which in itself is a priceless gift. What you'll get back will be immeasurable!
- Museums, Art Galleries, and Monuments
- Prisons, Neighborhood Parks, Youth Organizations, Sports Teams, and after-school programs, Shelters for Battered Women and Children
- Historical Restorations, Battlefields and National Parks
- 1-800-Volunteer.org a service of the Points of Light Foundation & Volunteer Center National Network provides listings of local and virtual volunteering as well as contact information for Volunteer Centers across the nation.
Here are some organizations ABC has partnered with that may be of interest.
1-800-Volunteer.org, a service of the Points of Light Foundation & Volunteer Center National Network provides listings of local and virtual volunteering as well as contact information for Volunteer Centers across the nation. 1-800-Volunteer is the most comprehensive system available for recruiting and engaging Spanish and English speaking volunteers, mobilizing volunteers during disaster situations, communicating with the public, and meeting the complex needs of nonprofit organizations. 1-800-Volunteer.org connects you to volunteer opportunities in your community, helps you track your volunteer service, and sends you automatic e-mail notifications - enabling you to respond when you're needed most. This free service is your direct link to local opportunities selected by your Volunteer Center and brought to you by the Points of Light Foundation and the Volunteer Center National Network. (www.1-800-Volunteer.org)
The Points of Light Foundation & Volunteer Center National Network engages and mobilizes millions of volunteers who are helping to solve serious social problems in thousands of communities. Through a variety of programs and services, the Foundation encourages people from all walks of life - businesses, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, low-income communities, families, youth, and older adults - to volunteer.
The Foundation's mission is to engage more people more effectively in volunteer community service to help solve serious social problems.
Based in Washington, D.C., the Foundation advocates community service through a partnership with the Volunteer Center National Network (VCNN). Together, they reach millions of people in thousands of communities to help mobilize people and resources, which deliver solutions that address community problems.
Volunteer Centers are conveners for the community, catalysts for social action and key local resources for volunteer involvement. They bring people and community needs together through a range of programs and services based upon community needs, demographic area, population size, and other factors.
The Volunteer Center's role in the community is centered on the ability to:
- Connect people with the opportunity to serve
- Build the capacity for effective local volunteering
- Promote volunteering
- Participate in strategic initiatives that mobilize volunteers
MENTOR is a national non-profit center for the promotion and support of those in the mentoring field. MENTOR works as a catalyst for mentoring programs by bringing together decision-makers from all multiple sectors, public and private, to develop strategies and organize resources. MENTOR seeks to advocate for money, both in the public and private sector, build infrastructure, promote quality mentoring, and simplify the process for individuals or organizations to get involved in mentoring. MENTOR combines the National Mentoring Institute, their resource arm, with the Institute for Public Policy and State Affairs, their advocacy arm. MENTOR commonly refers to itself as "Mentor's Mentor." Like many families we have worked with, the Elcano children have lost their father at a young age and organizations like MENTOR provide a supplementary resource for guidance and direction as they grown up. For more information on MENTOR, log onto www.mentoring.org.
The Mentoring Center - Seeking to improve the quality and effectiveness of mentoring programs and providing a direct service mentoring program model designed to transform the lives of the most highly at-risk youth. MENTOR believes that, with the help and guidance of an adult mentor, each child can discover how to unlock and achieve his or her potential. www.mentor.org
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America - Helping children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with measurable impact. Big Brother and Big Sisters vision is successful mentoring relationships for all children who need and want them, contributing to better schools, brighter futures, and stronger communities for all. www.bbbsa.org
Boys and Girls Clubs of America - Inspiring and enabling all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. Club programs and services promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence. Boys & Girls Clubs are a safe place to learn and grow - all while having fun. They are truly The Positive Place For Kids. www.bgca.org
Youth Service America (YSA) - Resource center that partners with thousands of organizations committed to increasing the quality and quantity of volunteer opportunities for young people, ages 5-25, to serve locally, nationally, and globally. Founded in 1986, YSA's mission is to expand the impact of the youth service movement with communities, schools, corporations, and governments. YSA envisions a global culture of engaged youth who are committed to a lifetime of service, learning, leadership and achievement. www.ysa.org
American Red Cross - Providing free assistance to victims of natural disasters nationwide and helping people prepare themselves, family and community for emergencies, "Together, we can save a life." The American Red Cross has helped people mobilize to help their neighbors for 125 years. Last year, victims of a record 72,883 disasters, most of them fires, turned to the nearly 1 million volunteers and 35,000 employees of the Red Cross for help and hope. Through more than 800 locally supported chapters, more than 15 million people each year gain the skills they need to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their homes, communities and world. Almost 4 million people give blood-the gift of life-through the Red Cross, making it the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The Red Cross helps thousands of U.S. service members separated from their families by military duty stay connected. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a global network of more than 180 national societies, the Red Cross helps restore hope and dignity to the world's most vulnerable people. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work. www.redcross.org
Habitat for Humanity International - Based in Americus, Ga., is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses in nearly 100 countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than one million people. Together with Habitat for Humanity, your family can help others realize the dream of home ownership. Visit www.habitat.org to find out how you can make a difference.
Keep America Beautiful - Beautifying America by focusing on litter prevention, beautification and community improvement, and waste reduction. Keep America Beautiful involves millions of volunteers each year in hands-on community improvement activities, where they learn how to take personal responsibility for improving their local community environments and their quality of life. We teach young people how to care for, preserve, and protect our environment. www.kab.org
Take Pride in America - Helping preserve our nation's landmarks. A national partnership established by the U.S. Department of the Interior that aims to engage, support and recognize volunteers who work to improve our public parks, forests, grasslands, wildlife refuges, cultural and historical sites, local playgrounds and other recreation areas. Together we protect and enhance the special legacy all Americans share - our public lands that cover more than one in every three acres across the Nation. www.takepride.gov
The Nature Conservancy - Preserving the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. www.nature.org
The Make-A-Wish Foundation® - Grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy. Born in 1980 when a group of caring individuals helped a young boy fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer, the Foundation is now the largest wish-granting charity in the world, with 72 chapters in the U.S. and its territories. Granting more than 12,000 wishes a year and 132,000 wishes in the United States since inception, the Make-A-Wish Foundation celebrates '25 Years Making Wishes Come True" in 2005. For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, visit www.wish.org and discover how you can share the power of a wish®.
Special Olympics - Helping to offer a shining example of what people can achieve given the opportunity to unlock their potential and discover ability. www.specialolympics.org
Toys for Tots - Offering new toys to needy children during the holidays through a program of the United States Marine Corps Reserves. The principal Toys for Tots activities which take place each year are the collection and distribution of toys in the communities in which a Marine Corps Reserve Unit is located and in communities without a Reserve Unit that has a Marine Corps League Detachment or group of men and women, generally veteran Marines, authorized by Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to conduct a local Toys for Tots campaign. Local Toys for Tots Campaign Coordinators conduct an array of activities throughout the year, which include golf tournaments, foot races, bicycle races and other purely voluntary events designed to increase interest in Toys for Tots, and concurrently generate toy and monetary donations. www.toysfortots.org
American Library Association - Promoting the highest quality library and information services and public access to information. Founded in 1876 and headquartered in Chicago, the American Library Association -- the "voice of America's libraries" -- is the largest library association in the world. Its 66,000 members are primarily librarians, but also trustees, publishers and others who support the work of the association. The mission of the ALA is to promote the highest quality library and information services and the profession of librarianship, as well as ensure access to information for all people. ALA invites you to contact your local school, academic or public library to find out how you can help make a difference - whether that's volunteering your time, offering your expertise, joining a local Friends group, reading to children, or donating books and materials. For more information on how to become a library advocate, see the ALA Website at www.ala.org and click on "Issues and Advocacy."
DisneyHand - For more information on The Walt Disney Company's commitment to charitable outreach and volunteerism around the world, please click here