I WANT TO VOLUNTEER
At some point, many of us declare that we want to volunteer more. We might start volunteering somewhat accidently when a friend invites us to participate in a local coat drive or because of a company initiative like volunteer day. In any case, these initial moments of giving back might spark an interest in doing more.
But once you decide you want to do more, then what? Many folks think volunteering is just about stuffing envelopes in a messy office. And while there is nothing wrong with this, there is much more to the world of volunteering.
We as a team at Nothers volunteered in various different roles including mentoring youth, serving food at a soup kitchen, participating in decision making as a non-profit board member, and writing grants for organizations we admire. There is always an opportunity for everyone, and finding it requires some planning.
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure you find a volunteer opportunity that allows you to give back, make a difference, and feel good about what you are doing:
- KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF IT
This might seem counterintuitive, is not volunteering all about giving? Obviously giving is at the core of volunteering, but many of us also want to get something out of our experiences volunteering. Perhaps you want to learn more about a cause and connect with new people. Or perhaps you are interested in a major issue in your community, and you are eager to roll up your sleeves. You could even be volunteering as a part of an educational or career requirement. These different motivations will push you toward different kinds of opportunities and organizations.
- KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO GIVE
A big mistake that I hear volunteers make is saying that they “just want to get involved.”
Sometimes we feel so compelled by a cause or issue that we just want to throw ourselves in yet wonder why a few days or weeks down the road we feel a bit out of place. Knowing what you want to give, like knowing what you want to get, will allow you to determine whether the opportunity will be a good fit for you.
- KNOW WHAT YOU CAN COMMIT
This is a simple one: Be honest with yourself about how much time you can commit.
In many cases, you can always start small and ask to get more involved later. This is better than starting off with a large commitment and backing down later, leaving the organization scrambling.
- KNOW WHAT’S OUT THERE
Sometimes the best way to find an opportunity is to simply poke around and see what kinds of opportunities are available. What speaks to you and why?
- KNOW WHO’S OUT THERE
Ask people about their experiences volunteering. Why do they volunteer? Where? How often? What makes it worthwhile for them? Tapping into your network will you give the knowledge you need to find a volunteer opportunity you’ll love.