Many Americans love to volunteer their time to a worthy cause. Data from the
Frequently, charities and organizations operate with small staffs and budgets and would welcome you as a volunteer. By asking organizations the right questions, you'll find a great fit for your interests, time and skills.
Questions to ask yourself
Your goal is to know if a volunteer opportunity is the right one for you. Before committing, think about the following questions:
What are my interests? Maybe you're looking for a volunteer opportunity that dovetails with your education, or perhaps there's a cause near and dear to your heart. Decide where your interests lie to help narrow your options.
What are my skills? Maybe you're good at teaching or gardening. Think about your strengths, then seek out organizations that need your special skills.
What do I want out of this experience? Volunteering makes you feel good, but is there another way you might benefit? For example, helping someone learn to read may also help you down the road if you're considering a career in education. Many volunteer opportunities can help you boost your own skills while giving back to the community.
How will I work volunteering into my schedule? While you're not a paid employee, people will be counting on you to show up and do a good job. Make sure you're not overcommitting yourself by taking on this new opportunity.
Does location matter? Consider whether you prefer the office, classroom or outdoors.
How will I be affected by this experience? Some volunteer opportunities may take you to disaster areas or bring you into contact with people who have experienced some kind of crisis. Ask yourself if you are ready to handle these situations.
Questions to ask the organization
Once you're ready to start talking to specific organizations, use the following questions to help develop a big-picture view of the organization and your role as a volunteer:
* How old is the organization? What is its mission?
* Who will volunteer projects benefit? What are the goals of the projects?
* How do you match volunteers to projects, both in terms of skills and interest?
* Do you need the skills and experience I can bring to the project?
* How is your organization funded?
* What is my volunteer position? What tasks will I be doing?
* Are the tasks within my physical abilities?
* What kind of training and/or orientation will I receive?
* Are there any particular tools or project supplies I should bring with me?
* What are my hours?
* Are there any security or health concerns I should know about?
* What is the timeline for the volunteer project or position?
* How much of the work is performed by volunteers versus the organization's employees?
* While volunteers are a vital part of many charities, there are times work should be performed, or at least supervised, by a paid employee. What kinds of tasks will I be assigned and am I comfortable with what I'll be doing.
* Is there a fee to volunteer? Be wary if an organization asks you to pay them to volunteer.
* Is there an expectation of a financial commitment to the organization? Some nonprofits expect board members (and perhaps other volunteers) to make annual contributions.
* Are volunteers (especially board members) covered by appropriate liability insurance coverage? You certainly don't want to volunteer your time to an organization if there are any uninsured liability risks.