We all lead busy lives. School, work, extracurriculars, relationships and family commitments don’t always leave a lot of time to add extra obligations to the calendar. Finding the time and energy to volunteer can seem next to impossible, but the gratification, sense of fulfillment and change made in the world is more than worth finding a little extra time to give back to those who need it.
In honor of April, National Volunteer Month, here are some ways you can volunteer regardless of your interests, experience, and how much time you have to spare.
WHEN CAN YOU FIND THE TIME?
Time is probably the first thing that prevents you from seeking out a new volunteer opportunity, but here’s the great news – even one day of volunteering can make a world of difference for a great cause.
Sometimes our lives are too sporadic to commit to a weekly schedule – I get it – but if you still want to help out those in need, consider becoming a special events volunteer. Special events volunteering is pretty much what it sounds like. When fundraisers and other awareness events are put on, organizations require more help setting up and putting on the event than they have the staff for. The tasks are usually quite simple and it’s a great way to see if you fit in with the company for future volunteering opportunities.
The easiest and most common way to start volunteering is as a weekly volunteer. Most year-round organizations are in need of people to help them out on a regular or semi-regular basis. This could be once a week for as little as an hour, or several times a week for a few hours each. It’s a great way to keep a regular commitment but have a planned, fixed time set aside in your schedule.
If weekly volunteering sounds like exactly what you’ve been looking for, but you aren’t able to make it year-round, fear not. Temporary volunteering is for a block of time only. Like weekly volunteering, it’s a regular commitment, but it has a fixed end date (perfect for students who want to volunteer during the summer, but don’t have the availability during the school year). It’s not as easy to find positions like this, but they’re out there!
Once you start volunteering, it’s pretty tough to quit. So, if you find yourself suddenly having the urge to pour your heart and soul into an organization, you wouldn’t be the first. In this case, I’d suggest you become a member on the board of directors. They usually have much harder and more time consuming tasks, but are at the forefront of the organization.
WHERE CAN YOU VOLUNTEER?
So, if you’ve been wanting to make a difference but aren’t sure where you’d like to begin, I’m here to tell you, there is an opportunity for everyone, no matter your interests.
It’s pretty well known that the medical world has a ton of not-for-profit places that could use an extra hand. Hospitals, long-term care facilities and senior living complexes always have a need for volunteers and there are many different positions available. Whether you like one-on-one connection, prefer clerical or cleaning duties, or even can lend a hand carrying groceries or driving people to appointments, you’re sure to connect with a job there.
Organizations like The Canadian Cancer Society, Make-A-Wish and many more are also great places to start making a difference if you like lending a hand in the medical field but aren’t a medical professional.
If you’re a people-lover and like being a role model, there are countless organizations that help out young people. Your local Boys and Girls Club or YMCA is a great place to drop off an application because they are always looking for caring and dedicated people. Places that help connect marginalized youth with resources they deserve, or even places that do something as simple as offering free tutoring or art classes can also be a very giving way to help those who need it.
The limits are pretty much endless when it comes to volunteering, and I could go on forever about where you could apply. Like giving back to your local community? Try helping out at Meals on Wheels or a local food bank. Love animals? Try the local humane society. Interested in photography and videography or like spreading the word about causes you’re passionate about? Apply for a social media coordinator position. If you can think of a place, event, or position that you are passionate about, chances are there’s a place out there looking for someone like you.
Now, if all of this sounds like exactly what you want but you aren’t able to make it in person, more great news – there are increasingly more opportunities available online. From the comfort of your home, you could have a huge impact on someone else’s life.
HOW DO YOU FIND OPPORTUNITIES?
By now, I hope I’ve sparked your interest in the world of volunteering, but you may be wondering where to begin your search for positions. Well, as you’ve probably guessed in this day and age, it could be as easy as a good ol’ Google search.
The simplest way of finding any position is by looking up volunteer opportunities in your location. (Shocking, I know.) It can be pretty overwhelming to sift through the results – because trust me, there’s more than you think – but you can easily narrow it down by getting more specific. What are you interested in? Search for it!
There are some job websites, such as Indeed, that allow you to search for volunteer opportunities in your area. Many filters can be added to bring up more precise results, but you may enjoy seeing all that’s out there too. In some towns and cities, there are municipal websites dedicated to connecting people to opportunities, so make sure you check out what resources are there for you.
If you are really passionate about an organization but the timing, location or job positions aren’t aligning for you, don’t be discouraged. Circumstances change all the time and it’s likely that they’ll need help in the position you’re looking for sometime soon. Keep an eye on the website and social media pages of your favorite organizations for upcoming positions and opportunities.
Regardless of your interests, availability and experience, you’re sure to find the perfect volunteer opportunity for you and make a big difference in the community around you. The impact you could have on someone’s life in a positive and meaningful way could start today. Here’s to your volunteer career.