Whether or not to volunteer is an intensely personal issue. People who feel a need to give back to their communities may face an overwhelming number of non-profit organizations who need their help. Where do you start and how do you determine where you can provide the best assistance? Regardless of where you begin your search for the appropriate forum for your volunteerism, remember that once you begin, your services will be depended upon. Choose your volunteer path wisely and reap the rewards that come with helping others and enriching your spirit.
Where to Volunteer
- Start with yourself or family members – have any of you received the services of a non-profit agency? Do you wish to repay these services by volunteering? Having been aided by an agency tends to provide the greatest interest in seeing to the success of an organization. Personal interest will create the greatest level of commitment in volunteerism.
- Where does your sympathy (empathy) lie? Homelessness, hunger, children’s issues, domestic violence…most communities have one or more agencies that cater to these and other prevalent causes.
- If you are not sure which agencies need your help, or if you are not completely sure where your interests lie, contact your local United Way or Volunteer Center. Both will be listed in your local phone book and will serve a wide variety of non-profit organizations. By volunteering through your local United Way or Volunteer Center, you can get exposure to many different non-profit organizations and can begin to determine which will most closely match your interests.
- Check with your place of work. Most corporations have established relationships with non-profit agencies and participate in special campaigns or projects. Volunteering through work can give you a no-risk opportunity to volunteer for a program without making a long-term commitment to a non-profit agency. Some corporations even allow work time volunteering. Check with your company’s Community Relations Director, Volunteer Coordinator, or Human Resources.
How to Volunteer
- Once you have determined which agency you wish to volunteer for, you need to let the organization know that you are available to help. Most non-profit organizations have a volunteer coordinator who can inform you of the volunteer opportunities available. Non-profits are always in need of dedicated volunteers, so do not fear that your services will be rejected.
- Do you have special services or talents to offer? Non-profit agencies with physical locations often require the services of electricians, contractors, painters, plumbers, computer repair technicians, etc. Non-profits are required to do extensive mailings on a regular basis, so folding, labeling, stuffing are often required. Typing, data-input, and computer skills are always handy to have at a non-profit agency.
- Is your desire to help centered on dealing directly with the non-profit agency’s clients? Do you wish to volunteer solely in an administrative capacity? Volunteer training is frequently offered (or required) by the non-profit to ensure proper interaction with all agency clients.
Criteria for Volunteering
- Establish your volunteerism goal prior to offering your services. Is this a one time offer to volunteer? Do you wish to make a long term commitment to the agency? In order to be truly successful as a volunteer, you must have a real interest in the organization and have a real desire to see it succeed.
- Know the expectations prior to committing to a volunteer effort. Ensure that you will be able to meet those expectations. Ask the person in charge of your volunteer effort for clarification of any points that are or might become confusing.
- Once you have committed to an agency, follow-through and be dependable. This is very important, one volunteer failing to meet their commitment might not mean the end of the agency, but it can affect a client’s ability to receive critical service.
- Start small. Trying to resolve all the issues of your community in one action will lead to frustration and a sense of failure. Taking on a little bit at a time allows you to really determine where your interests and abilities to help lie. Have fun and know that you are making a difference in the lives of people in your community.