16 April 2007
Consider these tips for volunteering wisely from the USA Freedom Corps, a national volunteer network. For more on volunteering, go to usafreedomcorps.gov
1. Research the causes or issues important to you.
Look for a group that works with issues about which you feel strongly. You might already be giving money to one of these organizations, and that might be a good place to begin your volunteer experience.
2. Consider the skills you have to offer.
Many positions require a volunteer who has previous familiarity with certain equipment, such as com-puters, or who possesses certain skills, such as ability in athletics or communications. For one of these positions you might decide to do something comparable to what you do on the job during your workday, or something that you already enjoy as a hobby.
3. Would you like to learn something new?
Consider seeking a volunteer opportunity where you’ll learn something new. For example, volunteer-ing to work on the newsletter for the local animal shelter will improve your writing and editing abilities - skills that may help you in your career.
4. Combine your goals.
Look for volunteer opportunities that will also help you achieve your other goals for your life. For ex-ample, if you want to lose a few extra pounds, pick an active volunteer opportunity, such as cleaning a park or working with kids.
5. Don’t over-commit your schedule.
Make sure the volunteer hours you want to give fit into your hectic life, so that you don’t frustrate your family, exhaust yourself, shortchange the organization you’re trying to help or neglect your job.
6. Nonprofits may have questions, too.
While most nonprofits are eager to find volunteer help, they have to be careful when accepting the services you offer. If you contact an organization with an offer to volunteer your time, you may be asked to come in for an interview, fill out a volunteer application, or describe your qualifications and your background just as you would at an interview for a paying job.
7. Consider volunteering as a family.
Think about looking for a volunteer opportunity suitable for parents and children to do together, or for a husband and wife to take on as a team.
8. Consider virtual or online volunteering
If you have computer access and the necessary skills, some organizations now offer the opportunity to do volunteer work over the computer. This might take the form of giving free legal advice, typing a col-lege term paper for a person with a disability, or simply keeping in contact with a shut-in who has e-mail.
9. Discover volunteer work in your neighborhood.
Many community groups are looking for volunteers, and some may not have occurred to you. Most of us know that hospitals, libraries, and churches use volunteers for a great deal of their work, but here are some volunteer opportunities that may not have crossed your mind:
- Day care centers, Neighborhood Watch, Public Schools and Colleges
- Halfway houses, Community Theaters, Drug Rehabilitation Centers, Fraternal Organizations and Civic Clubs
- Retirement Centers and Homes for the Elderly, Meals on Wheels, Church or Community-Sponsored Soup Kitchens or Food Pantries
- Museums, Art Galleries, and Monuments
- Community Choirs, Bands and Orchestras
- Prisons, Neighborhood Parks, Youth Organizations, Sports Teams, and after-school programs, Shelters for Battered Women and Children
- Historical Restorations, Battlefields and National Parks
10. Give voice to your heart through your giving and volunteering.
Bring your heart and your sense of humor to your volunteer service, along with your enthusiastic spirit, which in itself is a priceless gift.