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 are engaged in community development work in
a neighborhood, consider whether teams of unpaid folks can perform the
many tasks you would 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. Helping others often provides an emotional high and some real life satisfaction that is difficult to achieve otherwise. You can bring joy or comfort to others so easily.
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
A particular age group you enjoy, such as elderly or children
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? If so, what are the prospects that you will have a calm and happy environment?
Can you cope with grouchy volunteers, unhappy clients, 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
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 at the 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.
Although you may not think of working in community organizations or neighborhood associations as volunteer work, commitments such organizations indeed count as volunteering. Poke around further on the website if you think becoming more active in such a group might be for you. If needed, you could start a neighborhood association, or if you have some relevant background, start a community development corporation.
Online Civic Volunteerism 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
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,
Volunteer World, an attractive site where our international readers who need help should post their volunteer opportunity, and where our visitors who want to serve internationally can search for opportunities
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