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Tips for Volunteering: Some Food for Thought

The following is from an excellent Network for Good article: 10 Tips for Volunteering Wisely.

  1. Research the causes or issues important to you. Look for a group that works with issues about which you feel strongly. You might already be giving money to one of these organizations, and that might be a good place to begin your volunteer experience. If you can't find such an organization, here's a challenging and intriguing thought: why not start one yourself?

  2. Consider the skills you have to offer. If you enjoy outdoor work, have a knack for teaching, or just enjoy interacting with people, you may want to look for volunteer work that would incorporate these aspects of your personality. Many positions require a volunteer who has previous familiarity with certain equipment, such as computers, or who possesses certain skills, such as ability in athletics or communications.

  3. Would you like to learn something new? Perhaps you would like to learn a new skill or gain exposure to a new situation. Consider seeking a volunteer opportunity where you'll learn something new. Volunteering can offer a change from your daily routine.

  4. Combine your goals. Look for volunteer opportunities that will also help you achieve your other life goals.

  5. Don't over-commit. Make sure the volunteer hours you want to give fit into your hectic life, so that you don't frustrate your family, exhaust yourself, shortchange the organization you're trying to help or neglect your job. Do you want a long-term assignment or something temporary? If you are unsure about your availability, or want to see how the work suits you before making an extensive commitment, see whether the organization will start you out on a limited number of hours until you get the feel of things. Better to start out slowly than to commit yourself to a schedule you can't or don't want to fulfill.

  6. Nonprofits may have questions, too. While most nonprofits are eager to find volunteer help, they have to be careful when accepting the services you offer. If you contact an organization with an offer to volunteer your time, you may be asked to come in for an interview, fill out a volunteer application, or describe your qualifications and your background just as you would at an interview for a paying job. It is in the organization's interest and more beneficial to the people it serves to make certain you have the skills needed, that you are truly committed to doing the work, and that your interests match those of the nonprofit.

  7. Volunteer as a family. Think about looking for a volunteer opportunity suitable for parents and children to do together, or for a husband and wife to take on as a team. When a family volunteers to work together at a nonprofit organization, the experience can bring them closer together, teach young children the value of giving their time and effort, introduce everyone in the family to skills and experiences never before encountered, and give the entire family a shared experience.

  8. Think outside the box. Many community groups are looking for volunteers, and some may not have occurred to you. Here are some volunteer opportunities that may not have crossed your mind:

  • Day care centers, Neighborhood Watch, Public Schools and Colleges

  • Halfway houses, Community Theaters, Drug Rehabilitation Centers, Fraternal Organizations and Civic Clubs

  • Retirement Centers and Homes for the Elderly, Meals on Wheels, Church or Community-Sponsored Soup Kitchens or Food Pantries

  • Museums, Art Galleries, and Monuments

  • Community Choirs, Bands and Orchestras

  • Prisons, Neighborhood Parks, Youth Organizations, Sports Teams, and after-school programs Shelters for Battered Women and Children

  • Historical Restorations, Battlefields and National Parks

The full Network for Good article can be found here:

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