Volunteering is a rewarding and beneficial way of using one’s time, but many people aren’t sure how to get started or where to look. Whenever I volunteer at a local animal shelter, one question I’m often asked is, “How do I start volunteering here?” What probably stops a lot of people from offering their help is simply not knowing where to go or how the process works. The first initial steps of becoming a volunteer are going to be fairly standard and easy for most organizations. Keep in mind that a majority of volunteer opportunities have an age requirement, such as being 16 or needing to be accompanied by an adult.
The best place to start is by looking on that organization’s web page. If you browse around their site, you’ll probably come across a link with volunteer information. Sometimes the volunteer information may also be listed alongside employment opportunities. The site’s information will guide you through details about their program, but in many cases, you’ll simply have to sign up for a volunteer orientation class.
After that initial class, it’s possible you may have to take part in additional training in order to assist with a specified job. After that’s over with, you can start coming in to help whenever you’d like. Depending on the particular organization you’d like to volunteer for, they may have preferences concerning what time you come in or how often you should show up. Those would be questions answered during orientation meetings or by someone in charge of the volunteer program.
The best way to choose a place to volunteer for is to think about what your interests are and what types of causes you feel strongly about. If you’re not sure what’s out there, here are some suggestions of organizations found in many communities that are continuously looking for caring volunteers.
Animal shelters are on limited budgets and rely heavily on help from volunteers to keep things running. In addition to Humane Society shelters or those run by the ASPCA, local organizations exist that rescue and care for specific types or breeds of animals. For example, a shelter may focus solely on feline rescue or on a particular dog breed. Other animal groups may be designated to help with wildlife rescue. Rescue shelters offer a variety of jobs to choose from such as working with the animals directly, front desk and office help, promotional events, or cleaning to keep things safe and sanitary for the animals.
Museums and zoos
A lot of people may not be aware of opportunities that museums and zoos have for volunteers. Helping out at one of these places provides a great chance to be around something you have an interest in. Plus, you can be around others who are enthusiastic about it too. Museums may offer opportunities to help with special events, exhibition openings, or visitor information. Zoos may offer training in order to assist with animal feeding and habitat maintenance.
Library volunteers and tutoring
Libraries are another way of helping out in your community. Library volunteers can offer their services with special events, library classes, or outreach programs. Libraries in your area may also offer free tutoring programs for adults and children who need reading or homework assistance. There are also volunteer opportunities through the library that help individuals who are learning English as a second language.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is one example of a youth service with multiple locations set up around the country. This organization provides children and teenagers a safe and educational place to be after their school day. Involvement at a club in your area is perfect for volunteers who enjoy spending time with youth and having a positive impact on their lives. Children and teenagers can never have too many role models and this is a way to pass along your knowledge and motivation.
Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, and other humanitarian organizations
Not all cities will have these national organizations in their area, but it’s worth looking into if interested. Groups like these offer a chance to help those most in need and to make a difference on a national and global scale. Volunteers for Habitat for Humanity work to build homes for low-income families. People helping out the Red Cross may take part in collecting and distributing donations for disaster relief. Other humanitarian groups on a more local level may provide food and other forms of support for low-income residents.
In addition to these suggestions, other volunteer opportunities exist for: hospitals, health organizations, local and state parks, literacy and educational programs, and churches.
Whether you want to help with a cause you believe in, make better use of your time, or need to put in community service hours, there are countless places that offer a chance to make a difference.