Want to volunteer, but don’t know how/where to start? Here’s a guide for you!
How to Volunteer: Where/How to Start Depending on Your Passions
By Betsy Pearson
As I outlined in my previous article, volunteering offers many professional development opportunities as well as a chance to earn personal fulfillment and benefit your community. But saying “I want to volunteer!” and actually finding an outlet with which to do so are two different things. With just a little bit of creativity you can try to volunteer within your desired field and use your work as experience.
Medical Field and Public Health Volunteering
Volunteering in a technical field can seem daunting without the right credentials. However, any establishment that has patients on Medicare and Medicaid are required to have volunteers supply 5 percent of patient care hours. Facilities need the volunteer help!
In your community, local hospitals, hospice, and senior care centers are always in need of supplemental help. Here is a helpful search tool. On a larger scale, organizations like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have full volunteer programs available. Health Care Volunteer even organizes public health volunteers on an international level.
Here are some additional resources in the medical field:
- National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics: Find local clinics that need medical and non-medical volunteers
- Peterson’s: Connects you with public health internships and volunteering opportunities designed to potentially lead to permanent jobs
- Volunteer Base Camp: Resource for people looking to educate communities about sanitation, disease, nutrition, and first aid
Volunteering with Children
For anyone interested in teaching, education policy, or who just loves kids, there are plenty of opportunities that allow for working with children. In my time in high school I spent countless hours babysitting—that was great, but it isn’t necessarily the best way to volunteer and work with children. Schools across the nation are have been building reading volunteer programs in recent years. These volunteers work with elementary age children in order to promote reading—and at the same time, you could spend hours gaining relevant teaching experience. This opportunity would be great for high school students after school, or busy college students.
Here are other suggestions for future teachers:
- Idealist: Lists volunteering, internship, and job opportunities for your communities needs—often posting about school programs
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters: Help struggling children through one-on-one volunteering in order to encourage education and healthy habits
- Travellers Worldwide: Volunteer while traveling abroad to help special needs children and refugees
Political Campaign Volunteers
Political volunteering led me down the career path I still follow today. While midterm elections have just passed, next year’s cycle of local and state elections will begin soon, as well as larger national campaigns getting a head start for 2020. Campaigns are always looking for volunteers, and it can be both incredibly eye-opening and rewarding, while laying the groundwork for future political careers. Volunteers can post signs across the community, make phone calls, conduct competition research and data analysis, or even walk door to door. Check out this article about how to get involved in a local campaign. If you aren’t interested in supporting particular candidates but want to be a part of democracy in action, you can volunteer for your local Board of Elections, or become a poll worker.
Here are opportunities to volunteer with local government:
- gov: Work outdoors on public land including national parks
- VA.gov: Volunteer with your local Veterans Affairs facility
- Become a Poll Worker: On election day get a front row seat to democracy in action
Hunger & Homelessness
Homelessness and hunger are major problems, and volunteering to support causes like this can be particularly valuable. This can mean volunteering for a food bank–sorting, packing, or distributing food; at shelters or kitchens, or for countless local organizations combating these problems in their own ways.
National Coalition for the Homeless: Lists nationwide opportunities to volunteer with local agencies.
DoSomething.org: DoSomething has a nice resource for finding local volunteer opportunities to combat homelessness
Everyone loves our furry friends. But most of us in our 20s don’t have the money, time, or space to have a pet of our own. A great way to get your cuteness fix while doing some good at the same time is to volunteer at animal shelters or animal rescue organizations, which are almost always in need of volunteers. This can usually be a good outlet to gain professional administrative and operational experience. It’s more than playing with pets; volunteers maintain records, manage social media, send communications, and handle other tasks.
- AdoptaPet.org : America’s largest non-profit pet adoption site has a great resource for finding places to volunteer locally.
- AHS: Animal Humane Society has facilities all over the country, and a search function to find your local chapter/facility.
Join Greek Life
Some of my most impactful philanthropic work was done through my sorority in college. Choosing a fraternity or sorority to join depends on a variety of preferences, including their charitable work. Do research on your own campus to see which groups are available and which one works with issues that interest you.
Philanthropy events will be a major part of your chapter experience. Often groups will fundraise or host educational events relevant to their philanthropy. In my experience, there was also a volunteer coordinator who gathered information on external volunteer opportunities and encouraged members to sign up.
Here are the some of the most popular chapters and their related philanthropy:
- Tau Kappa Epsilon: (Fraternity) St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
- Kappa Sigma: (Fraternity) Military Heroes
- Sigma Chi: (Fraternity) Children’s Miracle Network Hospital
- Sigma Phi Epsilon: (Fraternity) Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
- Lambda Chi Alpha: (Fraternity) Feeding America
- Pi Kappa Phi: (Fraternity) Ability Experience
- Sigma Nu: (Fraternity) Helping Hand Initiative
- Alpha Omicron Pi: (Sorority) Arthritis Foundation
- Chi Omega: (Sorority) Make-a-Wish Foundation
- Delta Zeta: (Sorority) Starkey Hearing Foundation
- Zeta Tau Alpha: (Sorority) Breast Cancer Education and Awareness
- Delta Gamma: (Sorority) Service for Sight
- Kappa Delta: (Sorority) Girl Scouts of the USA
- Alpha Delta Pi: (Sorority) Ronald McDonald House
Betsy Pearson is a communications and staff assistant at the Independent Women’s Forum. She is a graduate from the University of Iowa, double majoring in Public Policy and Communications. Betsy received her Writing Certificate from the renowned Iowa Writer’s Workshop, which has led her to be published with The Libertarian Republic and intern with Atlas Network, writing news updates. She spent her undergraduate career as a student activist with Young Americans for Liberty, fighting for free speech on campus. Betsy has completed the Charles Koch Institute’s Internship Program, and the Fellowship Program. She has just relocated to the East Coast and enjoys exploring D.C. with her dog.
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