Volunteer work is not just an item on a resume or college application – it’s an essential part of a functioning society. The benefits of volunteer work reach far and wide with a ripple effect that begins with the individual and nonprofit organization and extends beyond the larger community, benefiting everyone in its wake. In this guide, you’ll learn more about the importance of volunteer work, how to find volunteer opportunities, and how to transition from volunteering to a career in a nonprofit.
The Importance of Volunteer Work
Volunteer work is the cornerstone that joins charitable service and hard work. While an individual generally does not receive compensation for volunteer hours, the rewards of service go far beyond that of monetary payment. In addition to the personal satisfaction and deeper understanding of community gained in helping a person or organization, individuals who volunteer are likely to develop a network of contacts that can be useful when searching for a job.
There are many opportunities for volunteering in a wide range of sectors, and people of all ages benefit from providing service to others.
Volunteering in Various Life Stages
Teenagers see great benefit from providing selfless service. Volunteering can add depth to college applications and help give teens perspective.
Volunteering in college helps students begin establishing their work experience in any certain field. Students can also build a substantial network of contacts.
Volunteering as an adult can help keep a resume current with experience, as well as give the individual a deeper sense of pride and community.
Finding Your Volunteer Focus
Choosing where to focus your time and talents can be difficult. Consider your personal values, convictions and interests, and learn about the various volunteer options to help you decide where you would best fit. Individuals who connect with their causes on a deeper level and have skills and talents that are specifically relevant in a certain sector can have a greater impact in their work.
Main Sectors of Volunteer Work
While many people think of feeding homeless people or reading to children as their only options for volunteering, there are many more opportunities to serve, including digital volunteering. The main sectors of nonprofits and volunteer work include social and legal services, civic and environmental advocacy, arts and culture, education, health services, and international relations and development. Read more about each sector’s accomplishments and available volunteer opportunities.
SOCIAL AND LEGAL SERVICES
Includes organizations that provide pro bono legal aid, individual and family services, residential care, job training and community and housing development.
Volunteer by working in toy drives; provide administrative help for social service offices, senior centers, and other community projects.
CIVIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY
Includes organizations that advocate for human and civil rights, environmental preservation and conservation, and wildlife.
Volunteer by leading or participating in a trail or river cleanup, assist in wildlife research, participate in awareness events, or provide administrative service to the organization.
ARTS AND CULTURE
Includes performing arts groups, nonprofit radio and television, scientific, natural, and historical museums, orchestras, literary organizations and other humanities-oriented organizations.
Volunteer at performing arts centers, theaters, museums, and gardens; provide clerical support; and teach children, the elderly, and the disabled.
Includes colleges and universities, preschools, elementary and secondary schools, libraries and research institutions.
Volunteer by tutoring, teaching GED classes, working in after-school programs for children, or participating in educational research.
Includes nonprofit hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations.
Volunteer clerical skills, assist in health care organizations, or visit and/or entertain patients.
International Relations and Development
Includes four major subgroups: foreign policy research and analysis; international development and relief; international human rights; and international peace and security.
Volunteer clerical assistance, assemble care packages for international disaster aid, and help promote and organize events or campaigns.
Going Global: International Volunteerism
Volunteers looking to make a global impact through their work find many meaningful opportunities beyond the U.S.’s borders. The reasons for global volunteerism are many, and include:
Cultural Awareness and Understanding
It’s one thing to see a new part of the world from a cruise ship or tour bus, but quite another to experience a country through the eyes of its people. Global volunteers live with and learn from peoples from other cultures as they help them flourish.
Help Struggling and Developing Nations
Rather than just sending a donation through Paypal or sharing a Facebook post, you can be directly involved with an international crisis or issue you feel strongly about.
Bring Value to a Summer Break, Gap Year, or Vacation
It’s important to earn money and it’s nice to have a break from school, but using even part of that time to offer help to nations who need you may end up being a once-in-a-lifetime, meaningful event.
Launch a Service Career
For those who envision a career in service to others, global volunteerism can be an impactful way to gain the experience nonprofit employers are looking for.
8 QUESTIONS TO DETERMINE IF INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEERISM IS FOR YOU
1. Why do I want to volunteer overseas?
2. What do I need to live comfortably?
3. How much am I willing to do without?
4. What skills can I bring to a needy population?
5. How much time am I willing to spend?
6. How adaptable am I to change as far as climate, food, living conditions, language barriers, finances, etc.?
7. Have I ever volunteered before? What was my favorite part of that experience? Worst part?
8. When am I available?
Ask yourself these eight questions to understand your motivations and where you might fit in. Once you’ve answered these questions truthfully and fully, you’re ready to move on to the exploration and planning stages of a new exciting experience.
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