Many social-impact professionals have a desire to give back in a way that goes well beyond a paycheck and the forty plus hours a week we usually devote to our jobs.
Have you toyed with the idea of volunteering with another nonprofit, but don’t know where to start? We got you!
Three questions to ask yourself to find the volunteer opportunity that’s right for you
Volunteering has changed drastically in the last five to ten years. Thanks to a growing embrace of remote work, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to spend a few hours volunteering.
However, this also means your options have expanded dramatically, too. If you’re trying to winnow down the vast ocean of opportunities, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want to do something that is aligned with my professional skill set, or something completely different? Nonprofits are constantly looking for volunteers to help with administrative duties, grant writing, event planning, and digital strategy. If you’re a digital maven and love what you do, consider volunteering with a nonprofit that needs support in developing a digital strategy or beefing up their online presence.
- Do I want to volunteer in person or remotely? Many nonprofits have adapted to the reality that in-person opportunities can be too much of a lift for some do-gooders. And the advantage works both ways, as nonprofits can dramatically expand their potential volunteer pool by creating remote opportunities while volunteers have more opportunities at their fingertips. Remote opportunities run the gamut and all you generally need is a computer and phone. Check out our tips for remote volunteering.
- Do I want a one-time engagement or a recurring, long-term volunteer opportunity? Volunteer opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. Organizations can have one-day needs, like staffing a fundraiser or a conference, as well as ongoing recurring needs like mentoring that require a bigger time commitment.
Finding the right organization
Now that you’ve narrowed down some of your options, it’s time to focus on finding the right organization. First, check out Idealist.org for current opportunities. You’ll also want to be sure to tap your network. Roughly one in four Americans participates in some kind of volunteering, so there’s a good chance you know someone who has solid recommendations or who can connect you to the right people.
And finally, it’s important to conduct some research to figure out which organization speaks to you the most. Check out their website and review their mission, vision, and programs. Many nonprofits also maintain a volunteer page where you can review what types of opportunities are currently available.
Pro Tip: In this post-Yelp world, you can find reviews on just about everything, even volunteer experiences! Depending on what type of organization you’d like to work with and what kind of volunteering you want to do, there may be online reviews available to add a bit of context to your decision-making process.
Bringing it all together
You’ve identified the right type of volunteer opportunity and found some intriguing listings on Idealist.org. The next step is to complete a volunteer inquiry or fill out an application (you’re likely to find one of these either linked from the organization’s Idealist.org page or on their own website).
For certain organizations, a volunteer orientation will be a requirement even before you are assigned a project. Review orientation scheduling and availability and make attendance at an orientation a priority.
If your work or academic schedule doesn’t work with the volunteer orientation calendar, don’t be shy about reaching out directly to the volunteer coordinator, explaining your situation, and inquiring as to whether they can make any accommodations. You may be surprised at what an organization is willing to do in order to attract the interest of dedicated volunteers.
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About the Author | Sarah Goff has nearly fifteen years of experience working in NYC’s public sector in what can only be described as an elegantly haphazard career path. She geeks out on politics and social policy and is deeply passionate about the the social sector. She has participated in numerous public sector fellowship programs and has her M.S. in Public Policy from The New School.