In the last post, you decided you were ready to volunteer. Do you have your list of things that make you SMILE? This week we’ll discuss how you find your list of potential organizations and opportunities.
Ask that friend who’s always signed up for something
If you’re in my world, that friend is me. I get asked at least once a week about how someone I know can get involved. I’m familiar with a lot of the organizations around the city, and nothing beats a personal recommendation. Most volunteers are happy to share their advice! In some cases, your friend might even be able to invite you along, or you could sign up to do something together. (In Indianapolis & want some personal advice from me? firstname.lastname@example.org)
Use your network
Look for opportunities within your current network. Many companies have corporate volunteer programs. They may provide opportunities for you to volunteer as a department or give you paid time to pursue your own interests. Church is another great place to look for group opportunities. Think about the places you visit frequently, too! Does your library need volunteers? What about your child’s school, your relative’s nursing home, the YMCA where you work out, or the park where you walk your dog on the weekends? Opportunities to help are all around you.
Join a group
What was your motivation for volunteering? If you said “to meet other people,” maybe joining a service group is right for you. You could look into becoming a Kiwanis, Rotary, Junior League, or other service club member. In Indianapolis, a group doing great things is One Brick (@OneBrickIndy). If you want to support a specific organization, they may have committees, auxiliaries, or other supporting groups that you can join.
Since googling volunteer opportunities can be time consuming, one of my favorite sites to start with is VolunteerMatch. Using the basic search, you can find opportunities using your location and a keyword or two. You can also use the advanced search to narrow your choices by category. Once you find an opportunity you like, you can contact the organization via VM or directly. Other sites like VolunteerMatch include Idealist, Serve.gov, or even Craigslist (depending on where you live.) You can also try your local United Way or your local government. Here in Indianapolis, United Way of Central Indiana and a new initiative sponsored by the Mayor’s Office, Engage Indy, both maintain great databases.
Tweet your way in
If you already know of an organization, their website should list open volunteer opportunities and the application process. On many sites, you can even complete the initial application. Some organizations also update their Facebook or Twitter accounts with upcoming opportunities.
Using both online and offline methods, you can make a list of the top five organizations or opportunities that are most interesting to you. In the next post, I’ll cover how to decide if an opportunity is a good fit for you!
This is part two of a three part series called “Finding your Inner Volunteer.”