How to decide where to volunteer

Find your passion choose where to volunteerEarlier this year, we wrote about the 5 surprising benefits of giving back. Volunteering can be very rewarding – for those you help and for you.

You may be thinking about volunteering, but you just don’t know how to get started or where to volunteer. It may help you to first take a look at the reasons why people volunteer.

Why do people volunteer?

Knowing why you want to volunteer may help you decide where you should volunteer. Here are a few of the reasons people volunteer:

Give back
The most obvious reason that people volunteer is to give back and do something good for others. You may feel that you have been fortunate and want to help others who are struggling. You may have a personal reason for wanting to volunteer. For instance, you may love animals and want to help out at an animal shelter. You may have had a sick relative who received home health care or hospice care, and you want assist others in that situation.

Do something new
You may like to experience new things and create new opportunities. You may want to do something that is out of your comfort zone. You can gain a deeper understanding of how other people live, the challenges they face and learn something new about the world. Volunteering can even be a way to open up your mind and learn something about yourself.

Make friends
Volunteering can be a great way to meet people and make new friends. You will find people with similar backgrounds and passions. You can feel a sense of belonging working alongside others who are interested in the same things as you.

Learn new skills
By volunteering, you can learn new skills and gain experience that you can use in your career. Many employers like to hire employees who have relevant experience in their field. You can also determine if you might like a particular career by doing volunteer work first.

Have fun
You will most likely choose to give back because it’s fun. Volunteering can be difficult, dirty, stressful, sad and rewarding. You will do it anyway because you enjoy it, or because at the end of the day your accomplishments are reward enough.

Once you know why you want to volunteer, it can help you narrow your choices as you decide where you want to volunteer.

Here are 5 steps to help you choose where to volunteer:

1. Find your passion
What issues do you feel strongly about? You may want to help cancer patients, work with the elderly, foster animals or mentor children. You can find groups that serve the areas you are interested in. Or, you may already give money to these types of organizations. You can take the next step and become a volunteer for them.

2. Identify your unique skills
You may have unique skills that you can incorporate into your plans to volunteer. Maybe you are good at landscaping and can volunteer to help beautify local parks. You may enjoy teaching and can mentor kids or adults. You might be good at sports and could coach a youth league. You can incorporate your special skills into helping a cause you are passionate about.

3. Talk to others
Where do people you know volunteer? You can ask around in your own personal network to find organizations that others might recommend. You may be able to join a friend or colleague where they volunteer to see if it’s a good fit for you.

4. Determine a good fit
Do you want to volunteer on a regular basis or sporadically as needed? What organizations fit your passions and unique skills? Which volunteer opportunities have been recommended by others? Narrow down your choices and find one that best suits you.

5. Get to know the organization
If you aren’t already familiar with your choice, visit their website and read more about them. Call or email the organization to ask any questions you might have. As we mentioned earlier, you can also volunteer with someone who already assists the organization.

You’re ready to give back! So go on and take the plunge. You may find that volunteering means as much to you as those you help.

Do you volunteer? How did you choose an organization?

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