National Volunteer Week April 18-24, 2021, is a time to recognize the impact of volunteer service in your local area and nationwide. It’s also a great chance to learn about the broad range of volunteer opportunities available that could allow you to support events, activities and social issues, while also expanding your career prospects.
Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week has grown as citizens’ interest in – and commitment to – volunteering has expanded over the decades. For many volunteers, the importance of putting their values into practice speaks to where they work, live, how they spend and invest their money, and how they spend their free time.
Volunteering is unpaid work. It’s a great way to develop work skills that you can leverage to open up new career options. You may also be able to earn a professional reference from a volunteer supervisor. Many employers and education programs take volunteer work seriously as a qualification, so if you volunteer, be sure to describe your role on a resume or program application.
The types of opportunities for volunteering are extremely broad, as are the skills you might develop. For example, volunteer opportunities could help you gain skills like writing, child care, teaching, coaching, fundraising, mentoring, board leadership, sales, phone answering, organizing materials, construction, fine arts, and more.
Another major purpose of volunteering is to benefit society – whether that’s your local school, community, city, or a wider audience. Knowing that you have contributed to improvements to society in some way can be deeply meaningful.
Some people volunteer for the connection with people – coworkers, students or clients, and the public. In particular, for people who seldom interact with others, volunteering can be an uplifting means of social connection. A variety of studies have demonstrated that volunteering has a number of psychological benefits, including greater satisfaction with one’s life, increased sense of belonging, as well as physical benefits such as lower blood pressure.
How to engage in volunteering
The range of volunteer opportunities is extensive and now includes many online options as well as in-person roles. Some organizations offer volunteer orientations and training, while others may provide basic information and launch you on your way. If training is important to you, contact the organization directly to ask about how they prepare volunteers.
There are several easy ways to get started exploring volunteer opportunities:
- The Points of Light Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit organization in the United States. They offer an online volunteer search feature to look for volunteer opportunities that you can work on from home.
- There are “hands on” volunteer listing websites in many communities around the country, such as HandsOn San Diego, Spark the Change Colorado, HandsOn Suncoast, Pittsburgh Cares, Seattle Works, HandsOn Suburban Chicago, and more. Try searching “HandsOn” volunteering (your city) for listings in your area.
- Search in Google or other browsers for contact information for local nonprofits that address the issues you would like to promote. Call, email or stop in to ask about volunteer opportunities.
Wondering about how your values might relate to volunteering? Check out CareerOneStop’s Work Values Matcher to learn about your own top values, which may provide direction for your volunteering search.