So, you want to volunteer. With all of the charities and organizations out there, choosing a cause can be pretty overwhelming. If you’re having trouble sifting through all of the calls to action, here are a few ways to narrow down your options and find a best-fit volunteering opportunity.
Understand why you want to volunteer
Are you new to a city and looking for friends with similar interests? Are you totally passionate about a specific cause? Are you looking for ways to give back to the community? Understanding the “why” behind your drive to be philanthropic can help you find the best-fit opportunity in your area. Volunteer programs come in all shapes and sizes—some are highly interactive and interpersonal, which can be great for extroverts; others require a more low-key approach and limited face-to-face time, a benefit to introverts. If you’re looking for friendly faces, a night at a soup kitchen or a community get-together are two fun options. If the social aspect of volunteering doesn’t interest you, shelving at a library or working with shelter animals might be something to try.
Choose a cause you’re passionate about
If you don’t understand or pay much mind to a cause, you likely aren’t going to get the greatest fulfillment out of it. By participating in an event, fundraiser, or activity closely related to your own interests and passions, you’re guaranteed to work harder and gain more satisfaction from the experience. If your life has been touched by cancer, Relay for Life would be a great fit. If you or a friend or family member previously struggled with depression, build a team for an Out of the Darkness Walk. If you’ve adopted pets from shelters and are vehemently against cruel breeding practices, support your local shelter. No matter what your interests may be, there are plenty of opportunities to explore.
Consider all the factors
Picking an opportunity is a lot like picking a college. For instance, say you’ve been looking into animal rehabilitation volunteer opportunities and a bird sanctuary has caught your eye. Before you sign up to help out, take a moment to understand what will be required of you. How far away is the sanctuary? What amount of physical labor must volunteers perform? How frequently are volunteers needed? Do you have any allergies that may be aggravated during your experience? Answer these questions completely and honestly, and critically think about whether you will be able to put in the necessary effort. Stretching yourself too thin or putting your health on the line will not benefit you, and certainly will not benefit the cause. Look for local or remote organizations that fall within your time and budget constraints.