More and more Americans are volunteering, driven by a desire to give back. Volunteering comes with many rewards, such as meeting like-minded individuals and new friends, having a purpose and feeling like you’re making a difference.
If you desire to become an active volunteer, follow these steps for finding the right opportunity.
Step 1: Determine your area of interest
The first step is to determine what type of volunteer work appeals to you. Here are five common categories, but the options are endless.
- Work with animals. If you love animals, then volunteering with a shelter or rescue group may be a great option. Local shelters need volunteers to walk the dogs, pet the cats and more. Rescue groups are also in need of volunteers to help at adoption events and many other tasks, from toy drives to mailings and websites. Both shelters and rescues also need people willing to foster animals until they’re adopted. Therapeutic horseback riding centers need volunteers as well.
- Feed the hungry. Soup kitchens need help preparing and serving meals. Food pantries and homeless shelters need supplies, and you could organize a drive to gather the needed items and deliver them.
- Volunteer with children. There are many organizations you can volunteer with that help children, including Foster Grandparents, where volunteers mentor and tutor children, and Big Brothers Big Sisters, where you spend time with children to help positively shape their future.
- Become a docent. Parks, museums and other preservation and arts organizations often need docents to answer visitor questions and give tours.
- Support the troops. There are many volunteer opportunities that help support the troops. You can volunteer with the USO, including greeting returning troops at the airport or helping with special events. You can also organize and send care packages. Visit sites such as AnySoldier.com and Give2theTroops.org for information on sending care packages.
Step 2: Reach out to specific organizations
Ask friends or relatives who volunteer about their experiences, and call or email local organizations for more information. Find out the organization’s volunteer needs and the time commitment required. See if this meets your interests and availability. Ask all the questions you have before committing. Most organizations will start with an orientation session.After you’ve determined what type of volunteer work you’re interested in, reach out to local organizations in your community.
If you need help finding the right opportunity, visit these sites:
Step 3: Enjoy!
Once you’ve found the right match, you can enjoy the sense of satisfaction in helping others and being involved in a great cause.
If the first place you try isn’t the right match or your needs change over time, be honest with the organization, and seek another opportunity.
When you find something you’re passionate about, everyone benefits.
Corporation for National & Community Service – NationalService.gov
Volunteer page – AARP.org
Volunteer Opportunities – createthegood.org