The road to giving back is paved with good intentions. Perhaps you’re already an avid volunteer, or maybe you’re trying to figure out how to get involved. Where do you start?
Since there are so many ways to give back, you need to figure out which method of volunteerism works best for you. That way, you position yourself to do some real good.
Here are 6 major ways to start getting involved with the charities and nonprofits doing great work in your area.
6 Different Ways to Volunteer & Give Back
1. Direct Service Work
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Working one-on-one with someone can be the most challenging, albeit rewarding, volunteer experience. Direct service allows for hands-on learning of an organization’s work, by letting volunteers work directly with the constituents being served.
Examples of direct service work include tutoring, helping someone secure public benefits, teaching a shelter group how to use a piece of computer software, and much more.
*Tip*: If you have specific credentials, consider opportunities that need your specialty. For example, a doctor would be a great fit for a community health center that serves low-income patients. Or maybe you’re a lawyer who can represent immigrants and refugees in court pro bono!
2. Physical Service.
“Whatever good things we build end up building us.”— Jim Rohn
When I say physical service, think paint, construction, gardening and cleanups. Physical service is direct service that focuses on the spaces constituents occupy. It’s important work (think about how a physical space impacts your mood), not to mention a great way to get yourself moving!
Examples include building/restoring homes, painting murals in a school, and cleaning up trash on beaches and in parks.
3. Boards or Committees
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” — Henry Ford
Boards and committees are a great option if you prefer to serve in more of a planning capacity. Join an event committee to support a fundraiser, or your alma mater’s alumni committee. Or, get involved with other specialized groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters, who have a volunteer committee specifically for young professionals.
One more thing, to properly set your expectations! When you join one of these committees, odds are you’ll be asked to give something financially. Do it if you can. It’s good to show your investment in a cause by putting your money where your mouth is!
4. Back-End Support
“With organization comes empowerment.” — Lynda Peterson
Events and direct service are highly visible ways to get involved. But organizations need back-end office support too! This can be anything: archiving folders, entering data into their operating system, building a website, balancing their books, or navigating a social media strategy.
This type of volunteer opportunity is a great way to see how an organization works from the inside. It’s also gives you valuable work experience, particularly if you’re interested in making a career shift.
“The heart that gives, gathers.” — Lao Tzu
Donating is a simple, flexible way to support a cause. Bring those unwanted (but still decent condition) clothes to your nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army. Drop off some non-perishables at your local food bank. You can even travel to your nearest Red Cross to give blood. Take your impact a step further and round up some neighbors & friends to join you!
Whether you’re donating physical items or actual cash, your gift matters.
“Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving”. — Henry Rosso
This is a profoundly important avenue for giving back, because nonprofits will always need money to do their work. In fact, many boards, committees and charity events are assembled with this purpose in mind!
But if asking for money outright isn’t your thing, no worries! Runners, sign up for a marathon and run on behalf of your favorite charity. Awesome home-owners, offer to host a fundraising dinner in your pad. Sell some lemonade. There are tons of options, you just have to get creative!
*Tip:* Some corporations encourage employee giving to charities, and might even match what you give (in time or money) to an organization! Check with your HR rep to see what programs are already in place.
This list doesn’t capture the entire world of volunteer opportunities available. But it’s still a great starting point! Then, once you’ve found the perfect opportunity, make sure you really rock it.