All that spring cleaning, and donating clothes, toys and books might have you thinking about donating your time as well. Ready to investigate some charities that could use some help? Here are some tips to help you find the perfect match.
1. Do make a list of your strengths.
Sit down with your beverage of choice and make a list of the skills you can offer a local non-profit.
Do you have great organizational skills? Love talking to people? Math rockstar? Speak another language? Knowledgeable about animals? Know your way around a kitchen? Great at soliciting donations?
List anything and everything you can think of. It’s also helpful to brainstorm no-gos as well – what type of volunteering should you avoid?
2. Don’t have your heart set on one specific task.
Be open to opportunities that are available. Perhaps the local animal shelter is full on volunteer walkers, but could really use help in answering phones, clerical work, or coordinating adoption events. Keeping an open mind about how you can volunteer will broaden your chances of finding a great match.
3. Do your research.
Take the time to figure out the needs of your community. Dig deep! Many nonprofits are run by a small group of volunteers and may not have a budget for advertising. Ask friends and local businesses what nonprofits they’d recommend. For example, if you’re looking to work with animals, ask Animal Control or a local vet what organizations they’d recommend. If you’re looking to volunteer for an environmental cause, call your local parks and rec office for a place to start.
4. Don’t just focus on the big guys.
There are tons of great national organizations working to make a change; donating your time, money, and/or networking ability will never go to waste. However finding the smaller, struggling non-profits in your local community may have a greater impact on the people, animals, and environment you interact with every day.
5. Do be willing to learn.
The organization you’re volunteering with will likely have routines and procedures in place to help everything run smoothly. Be willing to learn the ropes, and start at the bottom. Current procedures are likely in place due to trial and error, and the group will know what works best for them.
6. Don’t assume you know everything.
Be willing to take direction and learn new skills if needed. Ask a lot of questions in the beginning, and learn from more seasoned volunteers! You’ll likely make new friends since you’ll be volunteering with people who share your passion. Admit when you aren’t sure of something to ensure it’s done right the first time.
7. Do honor your commitments.
Many nonprofits run on the lifeblood of their volunteers. Honor your commitments whether they are for two hours a week, three hours a month, or a one-time event. The organization is counting on you to keep whatever schedule you agree to.
8. Don’t assume someone else will do it.
If you’re interested in a volunteer position, then go for it! Don’t assume someone more qualified than you will come along. If you have the time and the skills the nonprofit needs, then get in touch with the local coordinator sooner rather than later.
9. Do volunteer to help others.
Volunteering isn’t for the faint of heart. It can be hard and heartbreaking; do it for the right reasons rather than for resume and selfie opportunities. Whether you’re getting involved at a local shelter, for a political campaign, at a school or library, or for an environmental cause, show up for the right reasons.
10. Do consider raising funds.
Money makes the world go ’round, baby! The smaller the non-profit, the more likely it needs funds to operate. Get creative and host Cocktails for a Cause, a Moviethon, community yard sale, or another fun event to gather friends, have a great time and donate proceeds to a worthy cause.