Volunteering is an incredible way to contribute to the greater good while making new friends, learning new skills, exploring interests and passions, and connecting with the community.
What are the Benefits of Volunteering?
Most nonprofits rely heavily on volunteers to fulfill their mission. The time, effort and work performed when you volunteer truly makes a difference in many lives. While volunteering helps others and promotes a healthy, vibrant community, there are also many benefits for you as the volunteer.
Since you’re probably going to choose a volunteer opportunity doing something you enjoy for an organization whose mission speaks to you, you’re likely to meet and build relationships with people who share common interests. Volunteering improves health and happiness by reducing stress and providing a relaxing escape from everyday activities like work and school. Volunteering is fun and fulfilling, and it doesn’t have to be time consuming. While programs vary, opportunities abound for short-term and long-term commitments with daily, weekly, monthly and even one-time obligations.
Volunteering is Good for the Community and Good for You
While you share your talents with others, volunteering also can also be a great opportunity to develop new skills. These can be soft skills like teamwork, time management, networking, communication and problem solving; or hard skills like gardening, shelf-stocking or computer technology.
Volunteering is a key component of Didlake’s Day Support Program – for community integration as well as vocational skills building. In fact, during FY2020, 85 percent of our program participants volunteered at some 20 nonprofits in Virginia and logged a collective total of 25,447 volunteer hours. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Day Program staff supplemented hours worked and performed 349 hours of volunteering in their communities in a span of two weeks.
How to Find a Good Volunteer Opportunity
One of the main things to think about when you are looking into volunteerism is what you enjoy and has meaning to YOU. We all know that if you like what you are doing or if it really means something to you, you are more likely to do it!
At Didlake, there are three other major factors that we consider when choosing a volunteer opportunity. First, the volunteer work must be for a nonprofit. Second, the volunteer efforts must be for work in which someone would not typically be paid. Finally, we look for opportunities where our volunteers are integrated into the community, working alongside other volunteers who may or may not have a disability.
As you consider volunteer opportunities, think about what you enjoy doing and what causes you support. For example, if you are passionate about animals, you might consider reaching out to local animal shelters or horse farms. If you enjoy spending time outdoors, consider volunteering to help plant a community garden or beautify the community. If you are interested in environmental issues, an environmental organization or national park might be a good match. Also consider the following questions:
- Would you like to work with adults or children?
- Do you enjoy teamwork or prefer to work independently?
- How much time can you dedicate to volunteering?
- What skills would you bring to a volunteer job?
- What do you want to learn from the experience?
- How will volunteering impact your other commitments?
Where do you find volunteer opportunities?
Mission-based organizations from national nonprofits to small museums benefit greatly from volunteer support. The possibilities are virtually endless, but here is a list to get you started:
- Environmental organizations
- Community theaters
- Museums and monuments
- Historical societies
- Fire stations
- Health and rehabilitation centers
- Local animal shelters, rescue organizations, horse farms and wildlife centers
- Youth organizations, sports teams and after-school programs
- Historical restorations, national parks and conservation organizations
If you identify a specific organization where you’d like to explore opportunities, check out the organization’s website and social media channels to get a better sense of their work and if it aligns with your goals. Many organizations post volunteer openings on their websites as well. You can also call or email the organization to express interest and ask to be connected with a volunteer coordinator.
Find Volunteer Opportunities Online
Alternatively, you can search online using one (or more) of multiple websites that connect interested volunteers with ways to give back to the community. You can enter your location and key words to start your search, then filter by causes of interest and your skills. Check out these sites to start searching:
- Catchafire (virtual volunteering)
- Points of Light
- American Red Cross
- United Way
When donating your time, it is important to find a position that is a good fit for your interests and skills, and to dedicate yourself to an organization whose mission is meaningful to you. Once you find the right opportunity, volunteering is deeply rewarding. You are giving back to your community. You are building relationships. You are gaining valuable skills. And, most importantly, you are sharing your abilities with others.