How To Volunteer: 13 Steps To Start Volunteering in Your Community

By Indeed Editorial Team

February 25, 2021

Volunteering is a great way to get involved in your community and make a difference. Volunteer experience can also look good on your resume and help you stand out among other applicants. It's important to find volunteer opportunities that fit your schedule and interests. In this article, we discuss why volunteering is important, offer different ways you can volunteer in your area and provide the steps you can take to begin volunteering today.

Why is volunteering important?

Volunteering is important because it provides assistance to nonprofit organizations and other causes aimed at bettering the community. Several charities and other organizations rely on volunteers to achieve their goals and remain productive. Without volunteers, these nonprofits are not able to function at their highest level.

Volunteering also:

  • Saves money that nonprofits would need to spend on paid employees

  • Helps meet local needs required for the community to function at its best

  • Supports families and other individuals in the community who cannot support themselves

  • Improves educational systems

  • Offers personal benefits to the volunteers themselves, including improved wellbeing and decreased stress

  • Helps volunteers build valuable experience and skills

Related: 7 Reasons to Consider Volunteering

Different ways to volunteer in your community

There are several ways you can get involved as a volunteer in your community. Common places that have volunteer opportunities include:

  • Homeless shelters. Homeless shelters often have several volunteer opportunities available, including preparing and serving food to the homeless in your area.

  • Animal shelters. Most animal shelters require the work of volunteers to continue to run. Opportunities at animal shelters may include dog walking and administrative help.

  • Home construction organizations. Some nonprofits build homes or perform repairs on existing homes for little to no cost. Volunteer opportunities could include construction or cleaning jobs.

  • Retirement homes. People in retirement homes often rely on volunteers as a source of entertainment and learning. You could teach an art class or read a book once a week in your local retirement home as a way of giving back to the community.

  • Libraries. Many local libraries seek volunteers to contribute to the overall operations. Opportunities to consider include organizing bookshelves, participating in weekly reading events and assisting library visitors.

Related: How to List Volunteer Work on Your Resume (With Example)

How to volunteer

Here are the steps you can take to volunteer in your community:

  1. Decide which causes you care about.

  2. Identify the skills and knowledge you can offer.

  3. Create a volunteer resume.

  4. Determine how often you can volunteer.

  5. Research volunteer opportunities in your community.

  6. Consider using a volunteer site.

  7. Get all the relevant details for the volunteer position.

  8. Apply for the volunteer position.

  9. Follow up after you apply.

  10. Complete any required training.

  11. Begin with a limited commitment.

  12. Be professional.

  13. Regularly assess your volunteer experiences.

1. Decide which causes you care about

Choosing to volunteer for an organization or cause that you feel passionate about can increase the chances that you enjoy the opportunity. Take time to determine what you really care about before beginning a volunteer opportunity. For example, if you're passionate about disability rights, you may enjoy volunteering at a special needs center. The more specific you get about your passions and interests, the more likely you are to find a volunteer position that is best suited for you.

2. Identify the skills and knowledge you can offer

Many volunteer opportunities ask that individuals have certain skills. For example, an animal shelter looking for an administrative volunteer will likely want that volunteer to have previous experience. Assess the skills you currently have to see if there are specific roles you could volunteer for. Most nonprofits also have entry-level opportunities that train you on the basics, especially if it's a long-term role.

3. Create a volunteer resume

Creating a volunteer resume that lists your previous experience as a volunteer as well as your skills and interests can be a great asset when applying for opportunities. A resume allows the organization to quickly see what you have to offer and help find the most appropriate volunteer position for you.

4. Determine how often you can volunteer

Identify how many hours and days a week or month you can commit yourself to the position. For example, if you work a full-time job during normal business hours, you may only want to volunteer on Saturday or Sunday. If you are a stay-at-home parent, you may want to volunteer more frequently. Being realistic about your availability can ensure you don't overcommit yourself when volunteering.

5. Research volunteer opportunities in your community

Once you know your interests and your schedule, you can begin looking into opportunities in your community. Ask friends and family members if they know of any volunteer positions that fit your preferences. Think beyond the typical nonprofit organizations if you can't find an opportunity you're interested in. Consider asking a representative of your high school or college to see if they have roles available.

Related: How to Find a Volunteer Job: Tips for Where to Look and How to Find the Best One for You

6. Consider using a volunteer site

Another great way to find a volunteer opportunity in your community is to use a volunteer website. These sites allow you to input your skills, preferences and schedule, and then matches you with nearby opportunities.

7. Get all the relevant details for the volunteer position

Before applying for a volunteer position, ensure that you know all of the details. Learn about the tasks you'll complete, the level of commitment needed and any required training. The more information you know, the more prepared you will be if you get the position.

8. Apply for the volunteer position

Many volunteer positions require you to submit an application. While these applications are usually not as stringent as those for a job, you should still treat the application as if it's for a professional position. Take time to ensure proper grammar and spelling, and provide references if asked for them. You may also need to prepare for an interview if the position involves leading others or handling sensitive information.

9. Follow up after you apply

After applying for a volunteer position, follow up two or three days later if you haven't heard back from the organization. Many nonprofit organizations are busy and have limited resources, meaning it can take longer to respond to inquiries about volunteer positions. Following up ensures your volunteer application is received and conveys your interest in the opportunity.

10. Complete any required training

Once you have secured a volunteer position, complete any training required. Most training will be minimal, but some organizations require you to hold a certification or complete a training course before you can begin volunteering.

11. Begin with a limited commitment

When you first start, plan your schedule only a month or two into the future. See if you enjoy the position and organization before you make a full commitment. Once you know you want to continue volunteering in this capacity, consider giving more of your time to the organization.

12. Be professional

Treat your volunteer commitment just as you would a paying job. Show up on time, deliver on your commitments last minute and be professional while performing volunteer work. Nonprofit organizations rely on volunteers for many of their duties, so being reliable and professional makes a positive impact on the agency.

13. Regularly assess your volunteer experiences

Check in with yourself every few months to make sure you still enjoy the volunteer position. If not, you may want to consider searching for another volunteer opportunity in your area. You could also speak to the volunteer coordinator to see if there are other roles available within the same organization.

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