“Volunteers are not paid – not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” – Unknown.
Volunteers provide almost immeasurable value to not-for-profit organizations (As I wrote about in this post). However, with the right volunteer opportunity, the experience can be just as valuable for the volunteer! Today, I’m helping you find the ideal volunteer opportunity for you.
While there are many reasons people choose not to volunteer, one of the biggest reasons is that people don’t think they’ll enjoy it. Truthfully, if you choose the wrong volunteer opportunity for you, you probably won’t enjoy it.
However, you can find your ideal volunteer opportunity by focusing on your strengths, passions, and needs. In doing so, you’ll uncover a job you’re happy to do for free (As a volunteer, of course!).
That sounds complicated and overly-analytical, doesn’t it? I promise, it’s not. Let’s get started.
Your ideal volunteer opportunity is all about your “why”
To paraphrase the quote at the top of the post, you won’t get rich by volunteering. If money isn’t a motivator, you need another factor to keep yourself happy and engaged as a volunteer. You need a “why.” An ideal volunteer opportunity provides a great “why” for you.
First, I want you to get away from the idea that volunteering has to be an altruistic, selfless act. It sometimes is – and that’s great.
Get ready for a shocker here. Your “why” doesn’t have to be profound. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. It doesn’t have to be worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
But your relationship with the organization where you volunteer should be a two-way street. When you’re giving of your time and energy, you should expect to benefit from the relationship in some way as well.
I’m not telling you to expect free pizza, coupons, or endless recognition for your service, because we’re not divas here. What I’m saying is that the key to finding something you’re happy to do for free, is to find something that gives you a great “why.”
Second, remember that this is your “why.” It isn’t anyone else’s. And it’s not because you “should.” Rather, it’s something that makes a free act worth more than the time and energy you gave up to perform it. The easiest places to find a great “why” are:
- Using your skills
- Doing what you love to do
- Impacting what you care about most, and
- Getting what you need more of
The key to finding something you’re happy to do for free, is to find something that gives you a great “why.”
Getting to use your skills
We all have skills that could be useful in volunteering. Maybe you’re an accountant. Or a good singer. Maybe you’re great at carpentry. Maybe you can sew well. You might have awesome organizational skills.
Every single one of those skills could be used in a volunteer capacity. Volunteering is easy when you’re doing things you’re skilled at. And it’s especially fulfilling when the skills you’re using aren’t ones you get to use often. That’s a great “why!” Volunteering your skills is ideal because it allows you to use and refine your craft, while providing a valuable service to the organization.
Putting your skills to use for the greater good is easy. First, make a list of skills you have, including ones you don’t get to use often. Next, contact not-for-profits you’d be interested in working with. Ask them if they could use some help in your areas of expertise. Also, many organizations have a section on their website listing things they need help with. That might be a great place to start.
Doing what you love to do
Another great way to find an ideal volunteer opportunity is to focus on your passions. What do you love to do? Drawing? Working with kids? Caring for animals? Discussing art? Are you a history buff? Do you love swimming? Play the tuba ’till you’re blue in the face?
Whatever your passion is in life, make it a goal to do it as a volunteer. Doing more of what you love is a fantastic “why.” A simple Google search for your fave thing and “volunteer” will probably yield great results. For example, you could search “drawing volunteer” plus your city, and see what pops up. You can also check out Volunteer Match, a powerful resource for finding volunteer opportunities that align with your passions, skills, geographic area, and schedule.
For example, my big passion is horseback riding. Several years ago, I started looking for horse-related volunteer opportunities. I was able to find a volunteer opportunity helping with therapeutic horseback riding and hippotherapy, for kids and adults with special needs. I jumped on it because it got me around horses one more day per week. More importantly, it allowed me to channel my passion for horses into improving others’ lives.
Impacting what you care about most
Perhaps the strongest “why” comes in the form of having an impact on what you care about most. Maybe you care deeply about hospice care. Children. Animals. The elderly. Veterans. The environment. Ending domestic violence. Literacy. Whatever cause touches your heart, chances are there’s an opportunity for you to contribute through volunteering.
Because the cause means so much to you, you may already be in touch with an organization that could use your help. If so, reach out to them and ask what you can do to support their efforts. If you don’t already have an organization in mind, check out Volunteer Match. You can search their website by cause, geographic location, and a host of other factors.
Getting more of what’s missing in your life
Finally, your “why” might be that you’re looking to fill a gap in your life. Something you need more of. It could be sharpening your public speaking skills. Spending more time with others. Feeling like you’re giving back. Heck, maybe you just need something other than work to get you out of the house once a week.
There are so many different roles volunteers can fill. If you’re an extrovert and looking to spend more time with others, you can volunteer to work with others. If you’re an introvert and looking for quiet time doing an organizational task, you can volunteer to help out with filing or data entry. Whatever you need more of in your life, there is a volunteer opportunity that will fulfill it.
Volunteering can (and should) be a rewarding experience. The trick is to find something that gives you a great “why.” If so, you’ll be happy doing the work as a volunteer! You can do that by finding a volunteer opportunity that fulfills a “why” for you by:
- Allowing you to use your skills,
- Giving you the opportunity to do what you love to do,
- Enabling you to impact the cause you care about most, or
- Helping you to get more of what’s missing in your life
Do you volunteer? (Please say yes!) What do you get out of your current (or past) volunteer position that makes it ideal? Tell me in the comments below!
If you’d like to learn more about volunteering, check out my 3-part series on why volunteering is for you: