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The team from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator and leading donor advocate, shares their thoughts on emerging nonprofit-sector issues and offers tips to better inform your intelligent giving decisions.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Charity Navigator's Tips for Volunteering: How to Have Fun While Giving Back


Each year millions of Americans give their time and talent to support worthwhile charitable causes. Are you one of them?

Volunteering provides us with hands on opportunities to give back and make the world a better place. Whether it’s walking dogs at the local animal shelter, building a house for a family in need, or cleaning up a beach to promote a healthier ocean--volunteering matters. 

Most of us will spend some time volunteering this year. Take a minute to read through our simple tips for how to make the most of your experience (and maybe even have a little fun while you’re at it).

Love the cause

Like making a monetary gift, volunteering often requires sacrifice--perhaps it’s waking up early on a weekend to serve breakfast at a local shelter or working at a charity event after a long day of work. These sacrifices are a little easier to make when you’re passionate about the cause.

Take a moment to jot down the thing you’re most passionate about. Kids? Animals? The environment? Your community?

Next, use Charity Navigator’s Advanced Search Tool to find an organization in your area who is working on this cause. Are you interested in something that affects the world outside of your local community? This tool can help you find charities who are working on those cause areas too. Some may offer opportunities to volunteer remotely.

The key is to be interested and passionate about the work you’ll be doing. Working that charity event after work doesn’t seem as exhausting when you’re excited about the cause.

What can you offer?

Before reaching out to the charity to see what volunteering opportunities are available come up with a realistic list of the unique things you can offer the organization. Do you have professional expertise to offer or a skill that the organization can use?

Many small local organizations rely on volunteers to fill in gaps in expertise. Offering up your skills and talents will have a meaningful impact on the organization and allow you to do something you enjoy.

But you should never underestimate the value of simple “manpower.” Sometimes an extra set of hands to stuff envelopes, make phone calls, or serve a meal is all an organization needs.

It’s also important to know what type of commitment you’d like to make. Are you planning to volunteer weekly, monthly, annually? And what are you willing and not willing to do? Be ready to discuss these things with the charity so you both know what to expect from the relationship.

Make a commitment

You’ve found an organization. You know what you can offer and what you can commit to. Now do it.

Get in touch with the organization to see what needs and they have an what opportunities are available. Be honest about what you can bring, how much time you can offer, and the things that you are and are not willing to do. Being upfront with the organization will provide you both with clear expectations of what you can expect.

We all enjoy being able to give back and make a difference. Knowing what to expect from your volunteer opportunity and being able to put your skills and talents to use for a cause you’re passionate about is key to enjoy your experience and having fun at the same time.

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