With many charities reporting that they use volunteers, it is hard to imagine where the philanthropic community would be today if it wasn't for the help of these altruistic individuals. Volunteers perform a variety of tasks for charities. For example, a volunteer might stuff envelopes, feed animals, tutor children, build houses, serve as a museum docent, counsel those in crisis, sell tickets or just answer the phone. At the highest levels, volunteers serve on the board of directors and are charged with the crucial task of governing the organization.
Just how generous are Americans with their time? According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, in 2015:
And all those volunteer hours were spread out among a variety of causes as depicted in the following chart:
If you are considering joining the millions of Americans that generously give their time to help make this world a better place, then we encourage you to follow these three steps to maximize the experience for both you and the charity you assist.
Step 1: Identify charities that match your charitable interests
Similar to making a giving decision, you should begin your research by determining what it is you want to accomplish and identifying charities that work to achieve those goals. Use our site to create a list of charities that match your interests.
Step 2: Quantify and qualify what you can offer
Contact your list of potential charities to assess their volunteer needs and determine if your skills match those needs. With many charities having paid volunteer coordinators, don't be surprised if you are asked to stop in for an interview. You may even be required to undergo extensive training once you are accepted into their program. Thus it is a good idea to conduct a self-assessment to ascertain your personal goals before you reach out to a charity. Be sure you can answer the following 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?
Do I want to develop a new skill set that would be transferable to the workplace?
Do I want to meet new people with similar interests?
Do I just want the gratifying feeling of helping?
Step 3: Make a commitment
Once you identify a charity worthy of your time and are offered a volunteer position, it is important that you make a personal commitment to be there for that organization. Volunteers that show up late, cancel at the last minute and produce limited results encumber the charity, costing it money and preventing it from fulfilling its mission. A reliable volunteer with a strong work ethic can go a long way towards helping a charity meet its goals. Remember the organization has made an investment in you and is depending on you to produce a return.