Making the decision to learn how to volunteer can enrich your life in ways you might not expect. Studies have shown that people who volunteer regularly feel more connected to their community and, therefore, are less likely to experience depression and loneliness. It can also build important skills you can use to further your career. No matter your reason for volunteering, there are hundreds of ways to give back to your community and the world around you. Learn the basics of finding the right opportunity and getting the most out of your experience.
Choose a Skill
Leveraging a skill you already have, or at least one you want to build, is a good way to find a volunteering position. It helps keep the experience relevant to your career or educational goals while putting you to better use than in an unskilled role. If you don’t think you have any suitable volunteering skills, you’d be surprised. Even the ability to walk dogs, bake cookies for fundraisers, or clean up after events can be put to good use.
Find a Cause You Care About
Finding a cause that has a personal element for you makes it easier to figure out how to volunteer. Personal passion is a great guide to volunteer positions that will enrich your life and give it purpose. Some people feel like it’s somehow selfish to need a connection or interest in a cause before volunteering. However, they’re much more likely to burn out if they choose a position that isn’t motivating on a deeper level. There’s nothing wrong with preferring charities that help animals, champion legal justice, or focus on specific illnesses if that’s where you want to volunteer.
Look for Local Needs
When deciding how to volunteer, you may be tempted by far-off positions and remote opportunities. Sticking with a charity with a local branch or office can pay you back far faster and result in a greater impact from your efforts as well. Local charities tend to produce the biggest results and can make the most of your physical as well as mental labor. There’s nothing wrong with also volunteering online or while traveling, but ongoing local volunteer positions are more fulfilling than you might think.
Build a Volunteer Resume
The best volunteer opportunities often receive a lot of interest. Highlighting your applicable skills and background in an informal volunteer resume is the best way to stand out from the crowd. If you’re applying for a high-demand position or an opportunity you can’t miss, try to build a resume that shows you’re the best candidate. There’s no need for a full background on your education or career. Just focus on other volunteering experiences and skills relevant to the mission’s needs. A simple cover letter of a few paragraphs will explain why you’re submitting your resume for the position.
Test Out a Few Opportunities
Deciding how to volunteer the right way doesn’t end when you take a position. Signing up for short-term and one-time events will allow you to test out different charities and organizations in your area. You may find that you click with a particular group of volunteers or mission better than with others. Don’t commit to any specific long-term position until you’ve tried a few volunteering opportunities that pique your interest. You’ll get the background you need to better help whichever option you choose in the long run.
Make a Commitment
The final step in learning how to volunteer is committing to a long-term arrangement with your chosen charity or organization. While it’s not always necessary, most people get the biggest benefits from staying with the same group for months or years on end. This allows you to grow rapport with your fellow volunteers and see the changes you’re making in your community or the world around you. Some organizations may require a commitment up front, while others will let you come and go as you please to suit your schedule and family demands.
Enrich your life and deal with the modern epidemic of loneliness by volunteering in your local community. There’s a cause for everyone to get behind, so see what’s out there and put your talents to use for the greater good.