In 1974, President Richard Nixon declared a “National Volunteer Week” in April, and ever since organizations nationwide have celebrated volunteerism all month long as part of National Volunteer Month. Whether it’s one day or a lifetime of commitment, there is no short supply of ways you can give back to your community. When it comes to donating your time and energy, no effort is too small.
Want to make a difference, but not sure where to start? Read our eight tips on how to find the best volunteer opportunity for YOU.
1. Research your community - Whether it’s cultivating friendships with local seniors in an assisted living or rehabilitation center, offering free tutoring services to school-aged students, or volunteering in established programs led by area non-profits, you’ll likely find an abundance of opportunities where you live, limited only by the distance you’re able to travel.
2. Look for more than just the "standard" volunteer organizations- When you think about volunteering, your mind may focus on organizations such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or food banks. While those organizations are very worthy of your time, you may find other opportunities fit your personality or skill set better— ones that you may not think of immediately but that still need help. A site like volunteermatch.org can pair you with an opportunity that best matches your skill set or interests.
3. Figure out what skills you have to offer- No matter what you're good at, you should be able to find a volunteer opportunity that would benefit from what you have to offer. Organizations are always looking for people with different skills. Start by making a list of what you’re good at and what skills you would enjoy utilizing in a volunteer capacity. Once armed with that information, it will be easier to whittle down opportunities and find a good fit.
4. Do volunteer work you are passionate about - One of the rewards of volunteering is the satisfaction you get from whatever you do. You're likely to be happier and volunteer longer at an organization that supports something you care about.
5. Consider what organization will teach you something new- Volunteer opportunities can also benefit you. As an example, they can give you a career experience you don't have. Some organizations will also offer you training. Consider how volunteering at a particular organization may benefit you in the future.
6. Set realistic goals - You need to be realistic about how much time you can give to an organization based on your other commitments. Try not to over-commit yourself.
7. Volunteer with a friend - sometimes an added bonus of volunteering is sharing the experience with another person. It also is an incentive to be responsible and on time, which is an important component of being a good volunteer.
8. Involve your children - it’s never too early to instill the rewards of volunteering in the young, particularly if your children don’t have grandparents or other older role models nearby. Working with seniors affords youngsters a wonderful opportunity to make connections, and to learn valuable life lessons. Most seniors will tell you that children bring more joy than anything else into their lives.
One of the important rewards that a volunteer may receive is their own personal satisfaction. Volunteering makes people happy. If you would like further information about volunteering at Hebrew SeniorLife, please feel free to contact me at gailbork (at) hsl.harvard.edu, or visit the volunteer section of our website, where you can view all of our current volunteer opportunities and submit an application.