Volunteering in your community gives you a chance to give back. You'll feel a sense of pride that you are volunteering your time, and a local organization will benefit, too. If you want to get started volunteering, find an organization that's a good fit for you, and then decide what you have to offer. Then you can apply to volunteer at that organization and get started in your new position.


Picking an Organization

  1. Focus on causes you feel strongly about. When you decide to volunteer, you may want to plug into the first volunteer opportunity you come across. However, you're likely to be happier and volunteer longer at an organization that supports a cause you care about. When looking for an organization to volunteer at, try to pick one with a cause that riles your passions.[1]

    • For example, if you're passionate about animal welfare, maybe you want to volunteer at an animal shelter. If you believe in literacy, maybe you want to volunteer at a library or a school.
  2. Look for more than just the "standard" volunteer organizations. When you think about volunteering, your mind may focus on organizations such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or food banks. While those organizations are very worthy of your time, you may find other opportunities better fit your personality or skill set, ones that you may not think of immediately but that still need help.[1]

    • For example, you may find that volunteering with your local parks, at a prison, with youth organizations, or even for disaster relief may be more to your liking.
  3. Use a volunteer site to find a good match. Much like job search sites, you can use volunteer sites like Volunteer Match or Serve.gov to help you find volunteer opportunities in your area. Organizations list volunteer openings on their website, and you can search through and narrow them down, much like you would job listings.[2]
  4. Talk to friends and family. If you still can't narrow down where you want to volunteer, start asking people you know where they volunteer. You may find one of them has the perfect opportunity for you, and it can make it easier to volunteer with someone you know the first time.[3]
    • Volunteering with friends can make it less scary and more enjoyable because you're with people you know and have fun with.
  5. Pick an organization that will teach you something new. The first objective of volunteering is helping an organization and your community. However, volunteer opportunities can also benefit you. For one, they can give you career experience you don't have. Some organizations will also offer you training and career development. Consider how volunteering at a particular organization may benefit you in the future.[1]
    • For instance, volunteering at a clinic can teach you some about the healthcare system, while volunteering at library can teach you about community programs, literacy initiatives, and library organization. If you volunteer with the park system, you'll learn about park management.
    • You could also choose organizations that would develop skills you already have. For instance, if you are partially fluent in another language, you could offer your skills as a translator to community organizations, improving your skills along the way.
  6. Volunteer overseas. While you'll find plenty of opportunities to volunteer in your own community, volunteering overseas is also an option. When you volunteer overseas, you can do everything from assisting at a pop-up health clinic in a remote village, assisting scientists on a biological expedition, or building schools in an impoverished area.[4]
    • When volunteering abroad, you can go on short, week-long excursions, or you can commit to much longer periods.
    • You could even join an organization like the Peace Corps for a long-term experience, where you can volunteer in fields like agriculture, education, health, economic development, and youth development.[5]

Establishing What You Can Offer

  1. Identify your skills. When thinking about where you want to volunteer, considering your skill set is important. Organizations are always looking for people with different skill sets, so no matter what you're good at, you should be able to find a place that can use those skills. First, though, you need to identify those skills.[6]

    • For example, maybe you have stellar people skills, so you'd do well at a place where you interact with people often, such as a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
    • On the other hand, if writing is more your style, look into opportunities that can put that skill to use. For example, maybe you could write brochures for local nonprofits.
  2. Review your weekly schedule. You don't want to say that you can volunteer five times a week only to bail on the organization after a month. You need to be realistic about how much time you can give to an organization based on your other commitments.[2]
    • Try not to over-commit yourself. If you try to do too much, you're more likely to give up.
  3. Establish the length of time you'd like to volunteer. Maybe you really only want to volunteer at a place for a month. On the other hand, maybe you're looking for a place to volunteer for the long term. Either is fine, but you need to figure out what you want and be upfront about it with the organization.[1]
    • Knowing the length of time you want to commit to can also help you choose an organization and type of volunteering. For instance, if you only want a short-term commitment, you might want to help organize an educational talk at the local art museum. On the other hand, if you want a long-term commitment, you might become a docent at the museum.[1]
    • You can even find one-time volunteer opportunities, such as volunteering at a pet adoption event, helping at the library's annual sale, or joining a group park cleanup.
  4. Volunteer in person or online. Some people have the time to go in person to an organization to volunteer. If that's you, great. If it's not, think about volunteering remotely by doing work online. Many organizations are now looking for people who can help with things like writing and PR work, most of which can be done online.[1]

    • You'll find there are all kinds of ways to volunteer. You can run in a marathon to raise money for an organization, work as a big brother or big sister, or organize food at a food bank.
    • If you do want to volunteer online, you'd still need to find the right organization. You could send emails to local organizations and offer your writing or design skills, for instance, though they will probably still want to meet you in person at least once. You could also do things like tutor kids on the internet who are in need of homework assistance.

Beginning a Volunteer Opportunity

  1. Treat the application like a job. While some volunteer opportunities will be relatively low-key when it comes to the application process, others will want many of the same things an employer would want. For instance, many will have you fill out an application. They'll likely want to talk with you, as well as check your references. Be courteous and professional throughout these interactions.[7]

    • Spend some time preparing for the interview, much as you would for a job interview. Be ready to talk about yourself, your background, and what you have to offer to the organization.[1]
    • Remember, the interview is also a time for you to assess whether the organization is the right fit for you. Don't be afraid to ask any questions you may have.
  2. Ask what's expected of volunteers. Organizations are going to have certain objectives for their volunteers. Some may require training or a certain number of hours per week. Some may have a rigid volunteer schedule, while others may be more flexible. The important thing is you know what you're getting into ahead of time.[8]
    • For instance, volunteers at a museum may be expected to learn parts of the galleries to give tours, while volunteers at a clinic will be expected to maintain certain privacy standards.
    • If you're helping with a 5K charity run, you may find volunteers are expected to do things like sign people in, assist at water stations, or help organize the crowd.
  3. Complete any needed training. For some organizations, training will be minimal. You may need to attend a short orientation, for instance. In other organizations, it may be more extensive. One suicide crisis organization, for instance, requires its volunteers to take a training course and get certification that costs $250, though you may be able to get assistance with the cost.[9]

  4. Start volunteering slowly. That is, you don't want to immediately commit to volunteering three times a week for a year only to find that you hate your volunteer position. Of course, you can always back out, but it's better to commit to just a little bit of time at first to see if you like volunteering at the organization. Once you've volunteered there for a short period and decided you like it, you can commit to a longer period of time.[2]

  5. Move organizations if needed.. You shouldn't stay in a volunteer position you're unhappy with. If you are unhappy, try asking about how your work could be shifted within the organization. If that doesn't work, consider finding another opportunity somewhere else.[10]


  • If you are offered a leadership position or nominated as an officer, consider carefully whether that is what you want. If what you love is the in-the-trenches work for an organization, its board meetings and budgets may only prove to be a burden and an extra time commitment. On the other hand, if you feel you can best contribute by helping an organization to run smoothly, give leadership a try.

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