Volunteerism Fulfills Community Service and Individual Needs

Experiment with civic volunteerism until you find something you love. Unless you came to this page because you were assigned to community service by a court or because you were required to do service learning for high school or college, you should be giving away your time and your skills for a cause that brings you joy.

You can make your own community better, and a multitude of worthwhile causes deserve your attention. So choose one you like.

Neighborhood associations and communities rely on volunteerism to meet critical needs. If you're engaged in community development work in a neighborhood, consider whether teams of unpaid folks can perform the many tasks you’d like to assign an executive director, if only you had the money to hire one.





Best of all from the point of view of the potential volunteer, helping a nonprofit, community organization, or government can meet a host of personal development needs.

These include advancing your job search, giving senior citizen volunteers something challenging to do, getting anyone out of the house, providing a way to meet new friends or even potential dates and mates, and broadening your perspective by exposing you to people, places, and things that are foreign to your everyday experience.


Questions to Ask Before Deciding Where to Serve

Before you start surfing the Web, making phone calls, and visiting actual work sites to follow up on your interest in volunteerism, consider which you like best:

  • Manual labor with visible results
  • Working with people (and if so, whether and how soon results must be apparent)
  • Collaborating with others to bring about social or economic change
  • A low-stress, low-thinking activity where simply your presence makes a difference
  • Opportunities to express your values and beliefs through volunteerism

A second category of consideration is what group, geographic area, or virtual territory you want to consider your community. Is it closer to:

  • Your geographic area (define the limits)
  • Your school or school district
  • An interest or hobby group
  • Your political affiliation or a group that works toward a cause you believe in

Be as certain of your motivation as possible. Are you considering this commitment or specific one-time project because:

  • Someone has made you feel that "should" do this
  • You want to build your resume, chances of university admission, or financial aid for higher education
  • You want to boost your ego
  • You enjoy serving other people, even when it isn't always pleasant and you aren't always appreciated
  • You're bored and need something to do
  • You want to meet potential friends or dates
  • You would like to claim experience in a new type of endeavor
  • You want to experiment with a new role or identity

It's also worthwhile to evaluate honestly your capabilities:

  • Can you give reasonable amounts of time to volunteerism? Would your volunteering be regular or periodic, and is that compatible with the needs of the sponsor? Can you be reliable for a charity or do you need the option of making last-minute decisions? Do you travel often?
  • What are your physical or energy limitations?
  • Are there certain kinds of situations that cause you so much emotional distress you would be ineffective?
  • Must your surroundings be pleasant?
  • Can you cope with grouchy volunteers or overworked leaders?
  • Do you want donate money to the place where you serve? If not, or you can't afford it, will that be awkward?
  • Are you good at the types of projects you will be taking on?
  • Do the hours, days, location, and any clothing or preparation requirements fit into your lifestyle? If not, are you sure you are willing to change your routine?
  • If you are under 21, is there an age requirement? Pick up your phone and check it out. I just don't want you to be discouraged from ever trying community service again if someone puts you down. Many places allow and encourage young people to help out, so there's no need to be upset about those that don't.
Your local United Way, YMCA, library, neighborhood organization, city hall, or place of worship may be able to give you more than enough ideas from which to choose. Radio and TV station websites often feature opportunities too.

If you don't see something really interesting, think of a local organization that you admire. Call them, ask them if they can use your services, and if they aren't able to use your energies, perhaps they know a related cause that could.

Or perhaps you can be their first unpaid helper. You're a good candidate if your schedule is reliable, health and transportation are good, you have a sound education at least a high school level, you can look people in the eye and say something appropriate, and you've stayed out of trouble and done some worthwhile things in your life.

Online Civic Volunteer Listings




Or if you do everything on-line, just search among a number of great national and international listings on-line, including:

-Community Built Association, particularly appropriate for this site, as they match professionals and community people to transform the physical environment

-Hands On Network, a huge international volunteerism program of the Points of Light Institute, which has more than 70,000 corporate, non-profit, and faith-based partners in 16 nations,

-VolunteerMatch, a major site,

-idealist.org (which includes many other resources for cause-oriented people such as people attracted to this site),

-Network for Good (includes the cool and no doubt motivating feature of allowing you to record your hours on-line), and

-another all-purpose site to help you find the right community service opportunity

Two governmental listings are a site that lists natural and cultural resource opportunities for 12 federal agencies, and the Obama Administration initiative, Corporation for National and Community Service.


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Senior Citizen Volunteers

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Neighborhood Associations