Volunteering entails an investment of time and energy to a cause without compensation. It is considered goodwill to give of your time freely without the expectation of getting something in return.
Today, volunteers perform various duties, from building homes to mentoring young children. With so many opportunities available, you are sure to find one that appeals to your interests and aligns with your values.
Learn About Reasons to Volunteer
In some cases, volunteering is mandatory. For others, volunteering may set them up for career success down the line. Still, others prefer to volunteer out of the sheer joy they get from helping others in need. Below you will find several reasons to volunteer.
Many high school programs require students to conduct community service as a prerequisite to graduate. Students seeking college scholarships and ways to get an edge over other prospects use volunteering as a way to stand out.
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While it may be mandatory for many students across the country, it can open up their minds to see the impact they have on the lives of others.
Building a Resume
Much like high school students, many college students use volunteering as one method to get a leg up for their future. College graduates seeking to join the workforce often volunteer at companies in their desired field of work to make connections and learn the ropes of the industry. They also volunteer at places like food shelters and senior homes to illustrate a connection with the local community and their viability as future employees.
Contributing to a Cause
Many volunteer because they want to contribute to a cause that is near to their hearts. For example, some volunteer at nursing homes because they love to be around the elderly and have compassion for their struggles. Others volunteer at national parks because the preservation of animals and the environment is important to them. Regardless of the cause, there is a volunteering opportunity available to anyone who has a passion for something.
For some, the reward of volunteering is knowing they helped others. A limited set of unique individuals make it their life’s work to help others. Many come from religious or spiritual backgrounds, while others are simply compelled to act in service of their fellow humans.
How to Find Volunteer Opportunities
Major volunteer organizations are not the only place to find volunteer positions:
- Online – One of the easiest ways to find volunteer opportunities is by searching online. By simply typing “Volunteer (insert your interest here)” you may find an abundance of organizations seeking help. Websites like VolunteerMatch also help you find the right cause to dedicate your time to.
- School – Students can volunteer at a number of school functions to engage with and serve fellow students. Book drives, fundraisers and special clubs need members to participate and work to succeed. Asking a guidance counselor, coach or teachers if they know of any upcoming events that need volunteers is a good place for students to start. They may mark down service hours as well.
- Church – Churches and other religious institutes regularly seek members in the congregation to help out in many capacities. From conducting community outreach to feeding the homeless or mentoring the youth, a church always accepts a helping hand.
- Work – Many companies hold charitable events, especially around the holidays. Ask the office manager how to volunteer for the next event. Employees may even be able to serve as a leader in this endeavor.
- Locally – You can often find volunteer opportunities through your local library, community hall, shops or grocery store bulletin boards. Whether it’s at your children’s extracurricular organizations or local beach, there are plenty of places in your community that offer chances to volunteer.
Learn the Pros and Cons of Volunteering
With so many different areas to delve into to serve your community and fellow humans, there are many positive outcomes to experience. Some advantages of volunteering include the following:
- It feels good – There are few better feelings than knowing you did something good. Knowing someone went to bed with a full stomach, healthy or under a roof partly because of you is rewarding. Many volunteers believe the more you give, the more you get. That’s why so many who volunteer do it more than once.
- Skill and mind expansion – Those who volunteer often learn how organizations work. With that comes knowledge of new software or technology, new viewpoints on issues and a broader view of the world at large.
- Positively impact people’s lives – Volunteering is by and large done in the effort to help people who are in need. Volunteers help feed, heal, house, train and equip individuals with the items, knowledge or tools they need to enjoy some level of satisfaction or prosperity.
Volunteering is overwhelmingly positive and rewarding for people who do it. Nonetheless, it comes with some disadvantages to consider when seeking out volunteer positions:
- There is no pay – Because the individual elects to do this, there is no pay for the effort. Many times, fuel and other materials needed to volunteer are not reimbursed either.
- It takes up time – Many of the world’s largest volunteer organizations have contract engagements ranging between three months and two years. This is because they have to train their volunteers in specific skills and protocols. For disaster relief and medical volunteering, there are many rules to which volunteers must adhere to ensure the safety of others. Aside from these major engagements, a typical volunteering activity can take up whole days, evenings or weekends when accounting for travel time and preparation.
- It can be uncomfortable – A lot of times, volunteers work with people who are less fortunate than themselves. Other times, volunteers help people who have been hurt due to natural disasters or displaced from their homes. Seeing the human condition can be uncomfortable and spark deep emotional reactions. Exposure to these scenarios builds character for some. For others, it’s too much to take on.
- Some volunteer jobs take skill – For example, some volunteer initiatives call for experienced doctors, engineers or contractors. You may be willing, but technically unable to volunteer in the capacity you seek.
Learn About 5 National Volunteer Organizations to Work With
The following are some of the nation’s largest and most well-established volunteer-based organizations. Working with any of the below offers a chance to give back in an impactful way.
Developed as a domestic version of the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps is a volunteer program that serves the American population in different capacities. Its vast network of volunteers upholds the organization’s value proposition to get things done. Interested parties can leverage their skills for AmeriCorps to mentor students, build affordable homes and even help during times of disaster recovery. A typical AmeriCorps member may serve between three months and one year.
The American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is an internationally-recognized service organization. It focuses on global health, disaster relief, providing blood for an array of ailing patients and health and safety training. Ninety percent of the services provided by the American Red Cross are performed by volunteers. Volunteers give back to their communities by donating blood, providing care to the ill, preparing for and responding to disasters and mentoring the youth. Other volunteer opportunities include office management, communications and working with military veterans. Volunteer appointments can last up to three, six or 12 months, with options to renew.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization in which volunteers help build safe, affordable homes for low-income families. In addition, Habitat renovates homes in urban areas and works with local communities in disaster relief methods. Families in need of affordable housing are often seen helping to build their own homes, as well as the homes of others in need. This organization operates in over 70 countries. Volunteers serve in their local communities or abroad, as part of a group or long term.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is one of the largest charitable organizations in the world. Working in more than 128 countries, it supplies families with food, shelter, help with utility bills and more. It’s likely one or more of their shops have been seen where people can donate used clothing, furniture and all other sorts of items. The Salvation Army also offers disaster relief, family counseling, adult rehabilitation and domestic violence services, among others.
Senior Corps provides aid to citizens of all ages in the community. It leverages the knowledge and skills of those 55 years of age and older. Volunteer activities include tutoring or mentoring students, working with older senior citizens and delivering meals to residents in the community. The organization partners with charitable foundations to extend its reach and improve the communities they serve.
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