For over a year, I have been in search of a place to volunteer my time. You’d think it would be easy, right? I just need to figure out what I’m passionate about, apply, and spend time volunteering. Well, as a director of a national volunteer program, I can tell you: it doesn’t work that way.
So, what’s the problem?
All volunteer programs are not created the same. Some programs invest a lot of time for orientation and training. Others require a particular skill, age range, or community relationship. Some programs offer short and long term opportunities with growth and leadership potential. Others require a commitment on your time and specific days you can serve. Before you jump into filling out the volunteer application, I challenge to think about a few things:
How much time do you really have to offer?
And be honest with yourself. If you want to get involved and you don’t have a lot of time, look at being involved with Days of Service, or Make a Difference Day, events. These events give you the opportunity to volunteer for a day, without straining your schedule.
What are you really passionate about?
If you get involved with a cause or a project that is important to you, you’ll be more likely to volunteer longer, right? Because it won’t seem like something you have to put in your schedule. It will be something you want to do.
Where do you already spend your time?
If your calendar is filled with activities and events, why not consider volunteering with those activities? If you spend a lot of time at your child’s school, volunteer there. If you spend time in the community library, serve there. You’re there anyways, right? Might as well take it as a chance to give back.
What do you have to offer?
Before you fill out that application, think about what you bring to the organization. Besides your gift of time, do you have a skill or professional training that might be of use? Make sure you mention this on your application. Another tip: it’s okay to separate your volunteer work from your professional work! I love serving military families, but I also want to make a difference in the lives of those outside the military. So, I’d love to volunteer with a community organization supporting the needs of children with Down Syndrome.
Do you want to volunteer with an organization with a national mission, or do you want to directly serve your community?
Understand what the mission of the organization is and how volunteers contribute. You may have to do some poking around on their website to find this, but you’ll appreciate knowing how volunteers help the mission and where the most impact is made.
For local volunteer opportunities, check out the United Way, or even ask friends, neighbors, or coworkers where they give their time!
As for me, I think I’ll keep looking and wait for the right opportunity in my community. But I’m lucky. I get to work with passionate volunteers on a daily basis!
What suggestions do you have for finding the right volunteer opportunity? Share them with me in the comments!