Great places to volunteer
Many important organizations rely on volunteersWhether you’re interested in volunteering locally or abroad, there’s a volunteer organization ready to welcome you with a task or two. According to one directory, there are over 92,000 non-profits seeking volunteers. With such an array of options, how do you choose the place that's right for you?
One way to narrow the field is to make a small list of reasons why you want to volunteer. Ask yourself:
• Who or what cause do you want to help?
• How much time can you commit?
• What do you hope to gain from the experience?
• What types of activities do you enjoy?
• What skills do you want to enhance?
Many volunteers simply want to give back to their community. With that in mind, the following organizations have opportunities nationwide, and a track record of organizing volunteers to work efficiently so they can maximize every individual’s time and efforts. These are all great places to volunteer.
Habitat for Humanity
Founded in 1979, Habitat for Humanity has built over 350,000 houses, sheltering more than 1.75 million people globally. One of the organization's missions is to eliminate homelessness from the world. With the help of sponsors and volunteers, Habitat organizes donated money, material and labor to build affordable homes. Beneficiary families then mortgage the homes from Habitat with no-interest, no-profit loans.
What can you expect if you volunteer for Habitat for Humanity? Expect physical labor from carrying materials and using power tools, and expect to feel physically exhausted at the end of the day. Specific skills or construction experience is not required, volunteers are trained and supervised. Everyone leaves with dirt beneath their fingernails.
National Park Service
The United States National Park Service was established in 1916 to care for the country’s 392 national parks. The service also assists local governments, businesses and individuals to revitalize their communities through historic preservation, celebrating local culture, and creating ways for people to be active and enjoy the outdoors.
A volunteer position with the National Park Service entails a number of possibilities because the service is as diversified as the areas it protects. After completing a brief application, volunteers are matched to positions based on their knowledge and interests as well as availability. Nature lovers can expect quality time outdoors and the chance to improve conditions for the public, such as providing maintenance for a hiking trail. The National Park Services is one of the top great places to volunteer for fitness and outdoorsy types.
Hunger affects every demographic daily. Feeding America is a domestic organization that serves every state with a network of over 200 food banks and feeds over 37 million people annually. They achieve these high numbers due to extreme resourcefulness. For instance, with every $1 donated, Feeding America can provide 7 meals to the children, men and women who face hunger daily.
Volunteers can get involved through a variety of activities. Those able to drive are enlisted to transport food to charitable agencies. A number of hands are constantly needed to repackage donated food for use at one of the food pantries. If you enjoy working with children, the organization offers tutoring for kids at local Kids Cafes. By helping to provide one of the most basic human needs, volunteers see the direct result of their labor in the faces of the communities served.
Browse Volunteer Opportunities Online
Sometimes finding great places to volunteer is all about knowing the right match when you see it. A few websites are designed to enable people to browse organizations that are actively seeking volunteers. Two of these websites are Idealist and Volunteer Match. Both are hubs of information with active online forums where volunteers can exchange information and post reviews of their experiences.
Local Places to Volunteer
Here’s a few suggestions for matching an interest to a local organization:
- Animal shelters can always use an animal lover's hands.
- Senior centers welcome friendly volunteers.
- Call the office of your municipality. Some positions entail helping pick up trash from a street or park. These aren’t glamour jobs, but they help improve the quality of life for your family and neighbors.
No matter where you end up, you will make someone’s life a little easier and you’ll gain a greater sense of purpose and perspective. The people you volunteer for will appreciate your work, and you’ll end the day with a strong sense of gratitude.