An active and engaged life often includes volunteering. We’ve all heard of the “thousand points of light” and the idea that volunteering is good for your health. But how do you get started when there are so many organizations to choose from and so many worthy causes? It all comes down to you and what you hope to get out of a volunteering experience. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do you want to share your expertise?
If you’ve worked a long time at something, you have valuable skills that nonprofits and other organizations can use. For example, a lawyer, social worker or former health professional can be valuable as a volunteer Patient Advocate, and that’s just one of many examples.
Are you hoping to learn a new skill or do something you’ve never done before?
Let’s say you want to learn how to build websites. You might not get hired for a high paying job in industry doing that, but if you have some technical skills, you could do it for a nonprofit with a small budget. Maybe you’re not a licensed social worker, but you can still Help Women and Girls in a volunteer setting.
Do you prefer interacting with the beneficiaries of the organization or behind the scenes running the organization?
If hands-on is what you’re after, you can do things like Help Nurture a Young Reader or help out at the Special Olympics. If you prefer working behind the scenes to support an organization you can lend your talents as a Nonprofit Board Member.
What kind of time and/or travel commitment do you want to make?
Volunteering tends to be flexible, but it is worth doing your homework to find out what specific commitments entail. Some will be once a week for an hour or more, some may be more or less than that. Be realistic about what you’d like to do. If you are considering a commute, think about the time of day, traffic and other factors.
Is having a cohort of volunteers important to you?
For many people, volunteering is as much about the social engagement as it is about doing good, and that’s fantastic. Things like joining a Mountain Club Trail Crew can introduce you to a whole new group of people. If you prefer something with a one-on-one interaction, opportunities such as Crisis Counseling might be more up your alley.
For more volunteering ideas, check out Volunteer Gigs at Amava.