How to Volunteer
Volunteering is a great way to further a cause, support an organization, and
make a difference in your community. It can also be an opportunity to meet new
people and learn new skills. If you'd like to give something besides money,
consider lending your time and talents to organizations that are important to you.
1. Consider why you want to volunteer. Do you want to help the world or your community?
Do you want to build your own skills, make new friends, and learn? Do you love
what you do? Do you want to share your gifts with others or give something back?
Examining these sorts of questions can help you to choose the right direction
for your volunteer work.
2. Choose an organization that is meaningful to you. If you feel strongly
about literacy, for instance, volunteer at your local library or find out if
there is an organization of volunteer tutors in your area. There are
organizations doing all sorts of work, and it is especially important with
volunteer work that you choose something that you value. Organizations exist
for all sorts of purposes, so if dishing up food at a soup kitchen doesn't
sound like your cup of tea, consider ushering at your local theater, building
homes, or volunteering at a hospital or animal shelter.
3. Look for an organization or activity in your area or community. While some
volunteers do sign up for the Peace Corps or other worldwide organizations
and travel to remote parts of the world, you should probably start on a smaller
scale than that, especially if you already have commitments at home. If you
do plan on venturing abroad in your volunteer work, get lots of information
about what to expect there and ask your doctor about getting immunizations
appropriate to your destination. Talk to others who have traveled with your
intended organization and ask them to share their experiences, too.
4. Seek out an organization and tasks within it that suit your skills and interests.
Of course, you can develop new skills and learn many things by volunteering, but
your volunteer work can still be compatible with your interests. If you're an outgoing
"people person", you might not have much fun in the back office stuffing envelopes
or filing papers. Others, by contrast, might find it uncomfortable to solicit
funds door-to-door. Do you love to work with people? With animals? With children?
With numbers? Are you handy? Do you love to speak or to write? Organizations need
all sorts of skills. If you're not sure what sort of work you like or dislike, a
volunteer organization may be a great opportunity to dabble a bit and try different things.
5. Start small. If you already have a busy schedule, volunteer your time for
an hour or two per week or perhaps one day per month. (Just about anybody can
free up that much time easily. Try turning off the TV!) You might be surprised how
much you can accomplish in even a little bit of time. Then, if you find you enjoy
the work and have more time to pursue it, gradually take on more.