Finding the Right Volunteer Opportunity
BY: Susan J. Ellis
There are many volunteer assignments available, and you should take your time to find the one that best matches you. Start by thinking about the following questions:
What causes or issues matter the most to you?
Do you know what organizations address these issues, and are these organizations accessible in your community? Do you think these organizations are doing a good job and deserve your support? Have you ever given them a financial donation, and do you feel good about how your donation was used? Or are you concerned about a cause that no one else seems to be tackling? Are you willing to be the founder of a new effort? Are you concerned about issues outside the United States?
All of these questions will help you to focus on the type of organization you want to approach with your offer to volunteer.
Do I want to volunteer for something that uses the skills I apply in my paying work, or do I want to do something completely different?
What types of things are you good at (and like to do)? These can be professional skills, or even hobbies and recreational talents. Almost every type of skill is needed somewhere. The better you are at explaining exactly what you can offer, the easier it will be to find the right type of volunteer work for you.
Keep in mind that some volunteer positions will require prior knowledge of a task (such as working with a computer), but that there are a lot of volunteer assignments needing great people skills, too--the ability to be a good listener, nonjudgmental, cheery, supportive.
When you inventory your assets, also ask yourself: "Do I want to use these talents in a volunteer capacity?" If you really are looking for a complete change from your everyday job, then you might not want to select volunteer work that calls upon the same skills you use every day.
What would I most like to learn by volunteering?
As a volunteer, you have the freedom to experiment with new activities. Is there something you wish you had the opportunity to learn? Some organizations will gladly assign you to something as a beginner because they know that you will be motivated by tackling something new. This is one way that volunteering develops your skills and is fun. By testing yourself in different ways, you'll end up with a fresh perspective back in the everyday world.
What don't I want to do as a volunteer?
It's OK to identify certain things you want to avoid as a volunteer. The happier you are about what you will be doing, the better you will be as a volunteer. So don't feel that you have to say "yes" to any assignment offered. Feel free to negotiate.