When you think of supporting a charity, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I’d be willing to bet that a financial donation is most people’s first thought when asked that question. And, why not? Making an online contribution is fast and easy, and is a quantifiable way to tell the world, “hey, I supported this cause.”
But not everyone can donate, and even some of those that can might find that they want more of a connection to a nonprofit organization than just clicking submit on a donation form. For people looking for a more meaningful connection, volunteering could be the perfect fit.
Volunteering can bring a sense of purpose to one’s life in a way that working for a paycheck might not be able to. There is no shortage of charities that need volunteers, but how do you choose the one that’s the best fit for you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself when choosing where to dedicate your time and energy.
- What’s in it for me? It might seem strange to ask yourself what you’ll get from giving back, but it’s important to consider why you want to volunteer. Of course, most people give their time as a way of contributing to their community or a cause they believe in. But you might also volunteer to learn or hone a certain skill set, explore a different career path, or use your hobbies for good.
- What are your passions? Let the things you love guide your search for a volunteer position. How do you already spend your free time? Maybe you enjoy fixing things around the house or gardening. Maybe you love coordinating events either at your job or with your family. You can almost always find a way to use the things you already love to help a cause you believe in.
- Do you have a calling? We are all put on this earth for a purpose, and the right volunteer opportunity might just help you fulfill that purpose. Think about the causes that compel you. Maybe you’ve always felt drawn to help improve the lives of children. You could volunteer with an organization like Give Kids The World, or become an after-school tutor in your community.
- Is this the cause for you? Once you’ve found a charity you’re interested in volunteering with, really get to know them! To start, find their mission statement and make sure that you agree with their values. You can also research their history, affiliations, and reputation to ensure that the organization is one you would feel proud to align yourself with.
- How much time do you have? When considering the time you have to dedicate to a cause, be realistic and start small. Are you planning on serving regularly, or are you interested in helping with a particular event? Maybe you are interested in voluntourism, weaving volunteer opportunities into a vacation. At Give Kids The World, some of our volunteers often travel great distances to help out for a few days as part of a longer trip in the Central Florida area. Other charities might have needs that volunteers can fill from the comfort of their homes. Decide on the time and resources you’d like to allocate to your chosen cause.
Once you’ve made your decision, the last thing left to do is try it out. Contact your charity of choice to see when you can start giving back! An interview with others who work there, or an initial test-run shift are great ways to feel out if the nonprofit is the right fit for you. If the first option doesn’t work out, don’t hesitate to look for another cause. I have no doubt that a volunteer opportunity exists that will energize, excite, and reward you in ways that few other endeavors can.