So you decided you want to volunteer somewhere…but don’t know where to begin. A little research before you actually say yes, will increase the likelihood of you enjoying the experience. Be picky…why do I say that? There are so many opportunities out there, and some may be a great fit while others – not so much. You may like what an organization does, but the volunteer positions they have may not fit with what you enjoy doing. Here are some things to think about when picking an organization to volunteer.
- Know the minimum time requirement
- Where is the volunteer location
- Pick something that has meaning to you
- What skills do you have (and enjoy) that might match with their needs
Keep in mind that an organization may have many different volunteer position opportunities with varying requirements of time or utilizing different skill sets.
Things to Think About
Well, you need to know how much time you are really willing to give. Is it an hour a week, a month? 5 hours a month? Some (not all) organizations have a minimum requirement of hours…I know it seems crazy, but they do. I believe it’s because they invest some time training their volunteers, so they want you to be willing to make a commitment.
Also, some volunteer positions require a lot of time, not trying to scare you off here, but if you accept a position that someone else has had for the past school year, make sure you know what you are getting into. Ask the person who had the job before you approximately how many hours a week they spent on the position. Does it require more hours during a specific part of the year? For example, if it was a book fair position for PTA…you would likely have more intense hours around the book fair, and then it may drop to minimal hours after the book fair has passed.
If you are looking at National Charity League (NCL) or Young Men’s Service League (YMSL), there will be minimum hourly requirements for both you and your child. In YMSL, you and your son would be committing for the last four years of high school. In NCL, you and your daughter would be committing for 6 years, starting in 7th grade and ending in 12th grade. (Just know that for NCL, you apply in the Spring of 6th grade.) For more information on NCL, check out this post.
Along with time, you should consider where the volunteer work will take place. Is it something you can do from home, or do you need to be at their location? Or is it a mix of both? Many organizations have opportunities that you can do from home and then take to their facility or mail-in.
During the pandemic in 2020-21, many in-person opportunities came to a grinding halt, which is entirely understandable. Slowly, places have started to open back up…but my gut is that it will never be like it used to be. There might be restrictions in place for a while, masks & social distancing, and probably new changes will be implemented to reduce the spread of any kind of virus. Just be prepared for some rules to exist that may seem inconvenient…but just remember the rules are there to help protect everyone…including you.
Now..think about where you want to give your time. What are you passionate about? Do you want to be involved in your kid’s school? Then PTA or PTO might be your answer. Or if your kids are in high school and your kids are in an activity like debate, band, theater, or a sport…likely there is a booster club. PTAs and Booster Clubs can always use more help.
Suppose you want to volunteer alongside your son or daughter. In that case, National Charity League (a mother-daughter organization) or Young Men’s Service League (a mother-son organization) might be something you want to look into. Both of these options have volunteer opportunities already coordinated with philanthropies that need help so that you can start volunteering with minimal legwork on your part.
School volunteer stuff not your thing? No problem, find a cause you believe in, such as:
- Animal Rescue
- Saving the Environment
- Senior Citizens
- Helping the Homeless
- Food Banks
- Helping our Military
- Home Owners Association
These are just a few ideas to get you thinking…when you settle in on one that means something to you, then do some research online and figure out what might be a good fit for you, keeping in mind time, location & skills.
What skills do you have that you enjoy (that’s important here!) that you could give to an organization. If it’s crafty skills, then making blankets for the elderly or a hospital may be your thing. If it’s computer skills, it might help keep an animal rescue’s website updated or create a newsletter for an environmental organization. There are also plenty of opportunities that don’t require specialized skills. A great example would be writing letters of thanks to the military or first responders.
Of course, if you are volunteering with your child…take their skills into consideration too. If you both like watching movies on a streaming service, then making paracord bracelets for the military might be a great way to do both together.
There are so many places out there that need your help. Whether it’s 1 hour a week, a month, or much more, they need you. Figure out the time you have to give, where you want to share, what is meaningful to you, and the skill you have to offer. If you do that before you say yes to someone, you might just have a gratifying experience.