I have always worked at nonprofit organizations. The mission of the organization is what drives my passion. Without that mission, I find it very difficult to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. There are so many extraordinary organizations with so many extraordinary people doing work that has great meaning and value. I have a 16 year-old daughter who says, like many her age, that she wants to change the world one day. Most parents would dismiss that as youthful idealism. My response is I want to change the world with her!
What a great image - mother and daughter changing the world together. The world of nonprofits is huge. Volunteering is a wonderful experience that greatly benefits the volunteer. But a person can be easily overwhelmed by all the possibilities out there. You've given this some thought. Care to share?
This is exactly why I have begun writing a blog in which I highlight nonprofit organizations. It truly is extraordinary that potential volunteers are overwhelmed by so many wonderful nonprofit organizations. What a great problem to have! One of my next missions is to find a way to coordinate nonprofit organizations so that professionals, volunteers, users of services of nonprofits and virtually everyone involved would have an easier time deciphering what is out there.
For now, I have a couple of suggestions. It is important to think about availability to make a commitment to the organization. Some organizations are looking for a regular commitment, perhaps every week or every month. Others are open to leaving the schedule up to the volunteer. It's also a good idea to make a list of issues and/or types of groups that are of interest. Volunteers with passion for the mission of an organization are likely to be more enthusiastic about their commitment. Creating this list will also provide some focus for the search. Issues might include areas like poverty, literacy/education or climate change. Groups might include children, animals, immigrants or seniors.
The next step is to use a search engine to find nonprofit organizations that fit the criteria. Google is a logical place to begin. However, that can be very overwhelming. Fortunately, there are websites that are specifically for nonprofit organizations, including searches for volunteer opportunities. Of the multitude of sites I have seen, some are geared toward specific issues and others are more generic. These are the generic sites that I find to be most user-friendly.
www.idealist.org This is an international website that serves as a resource to volunteers, job seekers and professionals in the nonprofit world. The very large list of nonprofit organizations can be searched for a specific location as well as mission.
www.handsonnetwork.org This national website channels volunteers into local "action centers." There are options to lead projects as well as participate.
www.networkforgood.org This is a comprehensive nonprofit website that can include online donations as well as a search for volunteer opportunities.
www.serve.gov This is the government's search engine for volunteer opportunities at nonprofit organizations.
www.onebrick.org This site provides "one shot" volunteer opportunities in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, Minneapolis and Seattle. Interested volunteers check the website calendar, r.s.v.p. for a volunteer opportunity and show up at the time and place. After each volunteer event, the group of volunteers gather at a local restaurant or cafe to socialize.
Asking friends and acquaintances for suggestions can also bring great results.
What's the next step?
If more than one organization makes the list of potential volunteer opportunities, call the organizations and set up a meeting time (by phone or in person) to learn more. Ask them what they are looking for in a volunteer. Get a feel for the environment of the organization and the attitude of the people who work there. Some organizations may even be open to a trial run before they look for a commitment. Then, get ready to experiencing a more fulfilling and happy life!
Thank you for giving our readers this template for identifying volunteer opportunities. Hopefully, this will make the search less daunting. In the second part of our interview, Heidi tells us more about about herself and her blog, Nonprofit Ingenuity, which can help us navigate the unfamiliar world of nonprofit organizations. Please join us.
Check out Heidi's blog: Nonprofit Ingenuity!