Most charities rely on volunteers to contribute their time and talents to help support the cause. Volunteers often perform a variety of tasks for charities—whether it’s stuffing envelopes, feeding animals, tutoring children, building houses, or just answering the phone. At the highest levels, volunteers serve on the board of directors and are charged with the crucial task of governing the organization.
According to the National Conference on Citizenship, 1 in 4 Americans volunteer with organizations each year. If you want to join the millions of Americans that give their time to make this world a better place, follow these steps so that you—and the charity you assist—get the most out of the experience.
Step 1: Find charities that match your interests
Figure out what you hope to accomplish by donating your time, and identify charities that work to achieve those goals. Use our site to create a list of charities that match your interests.
Think about what you love to do in your free time—you might be able to find a volunteer opportunity that matches it. If you like horses, many cities have equine therapy centers that allow you to walk alongside the horse while children with disabilities ride. Or, if you love the outdoors, hit the beach for a cleanup or participate in your local community garden project.
Step 2: Determine what you can offer
Be realistic about what will fit into your schedule and what you want to achieve. You don't want to end up overcommitting (and underperforming!) for a charity you really believe in.
Before you reach out to a charity, know the answers to these questions:
- How much time can I realistically give in a week, month or year?
- What days of the week and time of day am I available to volunteer?
- What unique talents do I possess that would help this charity achieve its mission?
- What tasks am I unable or not willing to do?
- What do I hope to gain from the experience? (You might want a new skill set that would be transferable to the workplace, want to meet new people who share your interests, or just have the gratification of helping make the world a better place.)
Step 3: Reach out to your charity list
Contact your list of charities to see what kind of help they need and how your skill set matches up.
Many charities have highly coordinated volunteer programs, so you may be asked to stop in for an interview or undergo extensive training once you are accepted into their program.
Step 4: Make a commitment
Once you find a charity worthy of your time and are offered a volunteer position, commit to being there for that organization. Volunteers that show up late, cancel at the last minute, and produce limited results cost the charity money and prevent it from fulfilling its mission.
A reliable volunteer with a strong work ethic can go a long way toward helping a charity meet its goals.
Step 5: Expand your reach