Deciding to devote some of your time to volunteering may be an easy decision. But deciding where to volunteer? The options may seem overwhelming. Endless possibilities exist for people who want to help others or a specific cause. So how do you choose? Here are five factors you may want to consider.
1. Mission. Go to any non-profit/volunteer organization’s website and most likely you’ll find a “mission statement,” or even a whole section that describes the overall mission in detail. This is how you discover what that organization is all about. What are they trying to achieve? Who are they trying to help? And how are they going about achieving it? If you don’t personally connect with their goals or practices, it may be difficult to stick with a volunteering commitment. Find one whose mission speaks to you.
2. Values. Values are similar to a mission. Much like your own values, these are the guiding principles that drive a particular organization. Often, it’s these values that go into creating the mission. An organization may value “green practices” or “compassion for animals,” or any number of things. Again, for you to stay involved and invested in a volunteer opportunity, check the organization’s website and be sure their values match your own.
3. Schedule. This is a practical rather than philosophical consideration, but crucial nonetheless. You may totally jive with an organization’s mission and values, but what if their volunteer opportunities are limited to time you’re already committed? It’s also important to be realistic with yourself. If the volunteer opportunities are only at 8:00 am on a Saturday morning (and you’re not a morning person), don’t commit and then sleep through it. Be honest with yourself about when you’re most dependable, alert, and engaged.
4. Time Commitment. Much like “schedule,” you need to be honest with yourself about the overall amount of time you’re willing to commit. Lots of volunteer organizations live and breathe by their volunteer helpers, so don’t commit to ten hours a week when you might only be able to handle three. You have other commitments too (school, family, etc), so don’t beat yourself up if you have to scale back on volunteer time. Any help counts!
5. Consider your gifts and skills. Another way to choose a volunteer opportunity is to think about what an organization needs from you, and how this lines up with your unique talents and/or knowledge. Whether you’re a pro at video editing, motivating others, or working with kids, there’s probably something for you. We often enjoy ourselves most when we’re doing something in line with our skills and abilities, so if you choose a good “match,” your volunteer time will fly! And don’t forget that volunteering is a great way to hone your skills for later professional opportunities, so think about what skills you might want to develop as well.
How about you? When you’ve chosen a volunteer opportunity, what did you take into account?
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