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Want to Volunteer? 10 Ways to Get Started

Want to Volunteer? 10 Ways to Get Started

10 ways to volunteer
“What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.” - Aristotle

 

One of the most ancient quotes about volunteering proves that giving back is hardly a new concept. In fact, it's been going on for over 2,300 years. But during these unpredictable and unnerving times, giving back is one of the most important things you can do in life.

Obviously, the world has many urgent issues — wars and conflicts, food insecurity, extreme poverty, water shortages. And in the age of COVID-19, the number of people who need a helping hand has only increased.   

But there are literally millions of charities in the U.S. (1.8 million to be exact), so the choices can be a bit overwhelming. So, where do you even start?

Instead of scrolling through hundreds of pages of potential charities, start with what you love to do. If you can find a charity that matches your interests, chances are it will be a more successful endeavor for both you and the charity.

Here are 10 ways to get started with volunteering.

1. Work with Children

Do you love working with kids? Then there are plenty of volunteering opportunities out there, including helping out at your local library, a youth group, or a children's museum. Or you could look into working with organizations that provide services to low-income families, including daycare programs.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts also rely on volunteers, as does Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Adults serve as positive role models to children and provide them with much-needed support and guidance.

2. Help People Learn to Read

If you love reading, you may want to think about teaching adults with literacy issues to read. The National Literacy Directory site is an excellent resource if you'd like to find a local adult literacy program.

Or you may be interested in fostering a love of reading in children. In that case, you could consider working with an after-school program in your community or volunteering to tutor or read to kids. You can also connect with local organizations or national organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Want to Volunteer? 10 Ways to Get Started

3. Assist the Elderly

Many seniors need assistance, care, and companionship from people in their communities. If you'd like to work with older adults, you'll find plenty of volunteer opportunities.

If you enjoy cooking or spending time on the road, you can work with Meals on Wheels. You can also volunteer at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities. You don't necessarily have to be involved with a specific event or activity; many seniors just love having visitors. But if you do have a particular talent, talk to local senior groups and see if you can teach a class or host an event.

4. Raise Money for Healthcare Non-Profits

Several healthcare non-profits raise money to research cures and treatments for serious diseases. Not only do these organizations need people to donate, but they also need volunteers that can help with fundraising.

Relay for Life is a community-based fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. Every year, more than 5,000 Relay For Life events take place in over twenty countries. Events are held in local communities, university campuses, and in virtual campaigns.

You can also help organize a fundraiser that collects money for a specific cause or directly solicit donations. Consider contacting an organization like March of Dimes or the American Cancer Society to find out about opportunities.

5. Help Protect the Planet

If you have concerns about the environment, several organizations protect the planet, natural resources, and animals. 

If you're looking to volunteer in your area, the Waterkeeper Alliance allows you to look for local organizations. You can also check to see if there's a chapter of the Sierra Club in your area or even look for opportunities with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

6. Register People to Vote

Making sure that people in your community are registered to vote, ensures that they have the chance to participate in democracy. Locals need to have a say when choosing the government officials representing them.

If you're hoping to increase voter turnout, there are plenty of non-profits you can work with. You can check in with organizations such as Rock the Vote or When We All Vote to help out with local voter registration efforts.

Want to Volunteer? 10 Ways to Get Started

7. Help Reduce Food Insecurity

Hunger is an overwhelming reality for people across the globe. According to the USDA, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children, in the United States are food insecure.  Globally, over 811 million people are going hungry.

While it's clear that this is a tremendously complex problem, you can take steps to help families in your community. By volunteering your time and working with the right organizations, you can help people get access to the food they need.

Working with a food pantry or food bank is an excellent option. There are also larger organizations like the Salvation Army and Feeding America. If you can't find places to volunteer, you could try organizing a food drive yourself. You can collect donations and then donate food to families that would otherwise go hungry.

8. Support the Homeless

Homelessness is a horrible issue throughout the United States. Sadly, 1 in every 588 people in the U.S. are homeless. Although this is a serious and widespread issue, but you can still make a difference.

There are soup kitchens and homeless shelters in many areas that are run by The Salvation Army. You can visit their website to find shelters in your area that accept volunteers. You can also visit The National Coalition for the Homeless to find a directory of resources for the homeless. 

9. Work as a Hospital Volunteer

Many hospitals rely on volunteers to help out with various tasks and you can volunteer at a hospital even if you don't have a background in healthcare. Volunteers often take on administrative tasks, make beds, or provide resources to patients like pet therapy.

The St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, based in Memphis, Tennessee, has fantastic opportunities for volunteers. If you're located elsewhere, check with local hospitals to see if there are volunteer programs you can get involved with.

Keep in mind that hospitals often have strict requirements for volunteers. You'll likely need to complete an application as well as a screening process before you can start volunteering. 

10. Assist Families with a Sick Child

Serious illness is always complicated for a family, but it can be extra challenging when a child is sick. Organizations like the Ronald McDonald House work to support families in these circumstances. They have locations close to children's hospitals throughout the United States and in 64 countries globally.

The facilities that RMHC provide gives these families a place to stay. As a volunteer, you can help run errands, prepare meals, and simply offer companionship to families in an incredibly difficult situation. If you'd like to help, contact an RHMC chapter near you.

Research Other Ways to Help

While this list can serve as a starting point if you're looking for volunteer opportunities, many other organizations and causes deserve your support. If you'd like to learn more about places that need help, VolunteerMatch can be an excellent resource.

Why Volunteering Is Worthwhile

Donating your time and working as a volunteer isn't always easy, but it's more than worth the effort. Not only can it be personally rewarding, but your actions can have a lasting benefit on your community. If you've been thinking about volunteering, now is an ideal time to get started. You may be just one person, but you can still make a difference.

And, last but not least, here are a 5 stats about volunteering that may astound you:

  1. Volunteering improves your health by strengthening your body, improving your mood, and decreasing your stress levels.

  2. Those who volunteer regularly have a 27% better chance of gaining employment.

  3. 60% of hiring managers see the act of volunteerism as a valuable asset when making recruitment decisions.

  4. 92% of human resource executives agree that contributing to a nonprofit can improve an employees leadership skills.

  5. 96% of volunteers report that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life.

 

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