How to Find the Right Volunteer Opportunity

Find the right volunteer opportunity by matching your wants with your community’s needs.

Why Volunteer?

There are many reasons to volunteer, from a desire to give back to the community to the enthusiasm to build new skills or use the skills you have. Meeting new peers, improving your own life or having a new enjoyable adventure are also great reasons for volunteering.

Why It is Important to Find the Right Volunteer Opportunity

Approach a new volunteer opportunity as you might a job offer. Both you and the charity you choose should be happy with the volunteer match. Understanding your reasons for volunteering and finding the causes that are most important to you will help ensure a positive experience.

Find the Best Charity to Partner with

Because your volunteer experience will depend largely on the charity you help, it is start by narrowing down the causes and needs that are most important to you. Then explore available volunteer opportunities for the charity that seems to fit you best.

For example, do you want to make a difference to local children in your community? Search for charities that address issues of childhood poverty, education or health. Match that interest with your top reasons for volunteering to find the best role for you.

Get More Information about Volunteer Opportunities

Fast Company recommends asking your contacts for details of their own volunteer experiences with a charity.

Dan Pallotta offered a Ted Talk about a more modern way of choosing a charity that inspires you. In addition to visiting the website and looking at a charity’s annual report, he recommends calling and asking for a tour or meeting. While Pallotta is mostly speaking about where to donate your money, this advice is just as important for you as a volunteer.

How to Identify Your Community’s Needs

Sometimes the best volunteer opportunity is one that you create yourself. It starts with identifying a problem and then gathering others in your community who also want to help.

To find out what your community’s biggest needs are, you may have to do a little research. Community leaders or other knowledgeable sources may already have some idea of the most pressing problems. For example, Operation Warm knows a lot about childhood poverty and can help our partners identify American schools that need help with brand new coats.

Address Your Community’s Needs

One great example of address community needs is the Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table event. Each year, dozens of Operation Warm funders, beneficiary organizations and fans come together to discuss ways to improve the lives and futures of children.

“We review what makes our community great, what are the needs for children in our community, and what can we do individually and together to make life better for disadvantaged children,” says Rich Lalley, Operation Warm’s development director.

You’ll Know It’s a Good Match

When you feel like a nonprofit really values your help, you’ll know that you’ve got a good match. When you see the difference that you’ve made in your community, you know you’ve got a good match. And when you see the difference that it’s made for you, you’ll know you’ve got a good match, too.

When you volunteer, you make a difference for your community, and for you. Volunteering can enhance your career, your skills, your education and give you new people to meet and learn about. Take the first step today!

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