Make Your Mark on the World: Volunteering Locally or Virtually

I’m sitting here on a beautiful day listening to a little Yo La Tengo (“Today is the Day” is such a good writing song) writing my 11th post for this blog, my project I’ve been planning to start for 6 years. I knew today was going to be a good day. Things have been going generally well for a while!

This is the third post in the Make Your Mark series in which I’m explaining some easy ways to get started on your volunteer opportunity search. The first post was simply an introduction to volunteering. The second went more in-depth about matching opportunities to your interests.

Today I’ll be talking about where to find these opportunities. You’ve essentially two choices: local or virtual.

Virtual Opportunities

Did you know that you can do volunteer work from home? There are many virtual opportunities out there with no set location, which can be completed from home and/or via the internet. If you don’t have time to travel from one place or the other or want to volunteer from home for other reasons (children, work, etc.) volunteering virtually will be your best bet. You could be helping someone overseas with a project! Examples of volunteer work you can do from home are:

  • Designing marketing materials for an organization (pamphlets, fliers, and more)
  • Photography
  • Website designing
  • Grant writing
  • Virtual tutoring
  • Research

The special benefits to virtual volunteering include:

  • Working around your own schedule
  • Having your work exposed and known in different parts of the world
  • Opportunities for those who are disabled
  • Wider range of opportunities
  • All-around easy for those who may find volunteering difficult

For example, icouldbe.org allows volunteers to mentor underprivileged teens who select mentors that match their interests. You would communicate online and through the icouldbe website and aid them in activities such as writing a mission statement and autobiography, defining their top three priorities in life, etc. Volunteers would have to commit at least one hour a week. Painless, no? They also have neat features such as “mentor of the month”. You could get some neat recognition that way.

*These opportunities call for means of communication, which will be covered in the next post.

Local Opportunities

Most of the volunteer jobs you hear about take place in local areas. If you have time on your hands to commit a few hours a week towards an organization in your community or neighboring community, local volunteering opportunities are for you! Make sure you have means of transportation to these places before you sign up for them as well. Examples of local work include:

  • Building homes in your area
  • Cleaning local parks
  • Assisting in clothing drives and other drives
  • Setting up marathons and relays for fund raising
  • Office jobs
  • Tutors

The special benefits of local volunteering include:

  • Making new local friends
  • Gaining social skills
  • Becoming known within your community
  • Finding a new job in your area

When looking for local opportunities, I look through a few sites (including VolunteerMatch described below).  Go through your city’s website (or do a simple Google search for your city + “volunteer opportunities”) and look for businesses and organizations that post up volunteer opportunities. Some good businesses to search for locally are:

  • Colleges
  • Day care centers
  • Hospices
  • Senior Centers
  • Charities
  • Parks
  • Libraries

Some big organizations that branch out nationally (just search for your local chapter) include:

  • Rotary – the world’s first service club organization (they aid INTERACT clubs at highschools)
  • Habitat for Humanity – helping build local and afforadable houses
  • American Red Cross – aiding your communitiy in preparation for emergencies
  • Big Brother Big Sister – Become a “big brother/sister” to a child just to spend time with them and be someone they can look up to. Something I want to try very soon! This is their mission statement:

“…to help children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with mentors that have a  measurable impact on youth.”

VolunteerMatch has a search engine that allows you to search through virtual or local opportunities. You don’t have to sign up to search, but you do have to register to ask for more information about a position. It’s painless and easy, however, and helpful information about specific opportunities are emailed to you in a quick manner.

You could find more opportunities at your local Craigslist under “jobs” by clicking “nonprofit”, but you must be weary of these opportunities as these listings go through no screening process for legitimacy.

I’ll post an extensive list of links at the end of this series for you guys.

Make Your Mark on the World Series:

  1. Introduction: How to Start Volunteering Now!
  2. Beginning Your Search: Matching Your Interests
  3. Where to Find Them? Local or Virtual? << You’re here
  4. Items You May Need
  5. Other Information

I hope this has been of some help so far! If you have any questions or comments about specific volunteer opportunities and anything else, feel free to comment or email me.

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