Summer Volunteering: The Why & the How

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You made it through final exams and you’re looking forward to a little rest and relaxation this summer. And you deserve it! But before you get too comfortable, consider finding some time in your summer schedule for volunteering.

Why should I volunteer? Isn’t it better to just get a summer job?

Sure, paid jobs are great too, but even part-time paid summer jobs may be hard to find these days. If you’re willing to volunteer your time (even on top of a paid position), there are a few advantages:

  • If you invest yourself in a volunteer activity that really means something to you, it looks great on your college application and/or your resume for future job searches.
  • When you volunteer, you continue to build a network of possible references and      mentors. And volunteer gigs can often lead to paid ones!
  • It’ll mean something to you! So you can count on walking away from summer break      just a little more fulfilled.

Okay, so how do I find opportunities?

There are a number of ways to go about finding volunteer opportunities. Here are a few:

1. The internet: Many cities have a website totally dedicated to searching for volunteer opportunities, like this one for Portland, OR. Just do a search with the name of your (or a nearby) city and the words “volunteer opportunities.”

2. Consider your skill set: Are you artistically inclined? A great trumpet player? Target nonprofit organizations, summer camps, or events that could use your skills!

3. Network: Jot down as many of your acquaintances as possible, and start thinking about where they’re connected. Your parents might have a friend who could use your help, or maybe you have a friend who volunteered somewhere last summer and you’d like to do the same. Use those existing connections to lead you towards an opportunity.

4. Think national: Is there an organization that you admire, like the Red Cross? Find the local office or chapter, and ask if they need volunteers this summer!

More ideas for summer volunteering:

  • Community Events and Festivals: Summertime is chock full of local festivals and events. Research what’s happening in your community this summer, and contact a volunteer coordinator. You could gain experience in event planning, marketing, graphic design, fundraising, or even finance.
  • Camps: School’s out, but kids still need plenty of organized activities. There are camps for almost anything you can think of—art, music, sports—you name it. See if you can help out at a day camp in your area. This is especially great if you enjoy working with kids.
  • Nonprofits in your community: Nonprofit organizations often need help. Find a list of the ones in your town, and connect with the ones that sound most in-line with your interests and skills.

Whatever you do, try to find something you’ll enjoy. It is summer after all!

Have you volunteered over the summer? Where? How did you find the opportunity?

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