Personal Finance

Where To Volunteer

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 18 minute read

I just compiled a list of all the service opportunities I can remember from my time in high school. It exceeded my expectations in terms of length and breadth. Since I turned sixteen, I’ve:

  • Trail maintenance was performed at a popular wildlife preserve.
  • I helped out in a no-kill animal shelter.
  • Once a week, I offered companionship to an elderly couple without children.
  • I taught English to newly arrived asylees.
  • Several neighborhood block parties were held.
  • My neighborhood association’s board of directors

All of this is not to boast. I don’t do a lot of volunteering. These obligations each required only a few hours of time each month. Rather, my own experience demonstrates how simple it is to get out there and volunteer for organizations and causes that coincide with your values and interests.

Of course, my experience is limited to one person. Each volunteer brings a distinct set of interests, abilities, and schedule flexibility to the table. Opportunities that appeal to me may not appeal to you, and vice versa.

Fortunately, the world is full of worthy organizations that value the contributions of unpaid volunteers. Whatever your abilities are in comparison to other volunteers’ or the issues you are most passionate about, you will undoubtedly discover many methods to give back without compromising your principles or ethics.

Where To Volunteer Your Time

The organizations and causes listed here are a selection of particular organizations and broad issues that merit your time and abilities. Keep in mind that opportunities may differ depending on your region, season, and skill level.

  1. Local Public Library

Volunteers are critically needed in public library systems, and not just for mundane tasks like replenishing shelves. Volunteer options at LA County Library, one of the largest library systems in the United States, include, for example:

  • Cleaning and organizing library items and exhibits
  • Participating in children’s programming, such as story times
  • Providing technical assistance to library users
  • Fundraising for library programs

Visit the website of your public library system to learn about current possibilities, or enquire at your nearest branch.

  1. Your community’s Parks and Recreation Department

Volunteers are almost definitely needed by your city or county parks and recreation department, particularly for seasonal activities such as spring cleanups, leaf collection, and picnic area maintenance.

For example, the Arlington Parks and Recreation Department provides both ongoing and one-time volunteer opportunities, such as:

  • Coaching teams in leisure leagues
  • Giving lessons at parks and recreation centers
  • Participating in park cleanup events
  • Staffing for special events held in parks
  • Garden bed maintenance

Many localities have volunteer coordinators on staff. Check with yours for information on outdoor volunteering possibilities in your area.

  1. Your Neighborhood Community Center

The majority of large cities have at least one community center in the heart of town. Larger cities sometimes have a greater number of community centers, some of which cater to certain demographics or types of programming, such as kids centers and senior centers.

Regardless of how it’s organized, your local community center or community center network is full of service possibilities. A variety of Chicago Youth Centers are in need of volunteers.

  • Students should be mentored and assisted with their schoolwork.
  • Supervise after-school activities
  • Organize arts & crafts projects.
  • Assist with the upkeep of grounds and gardens.
  • Assistance with building upkeep initiatives

Learn about volunteer opportunities in your town by visiting your local community center or municipal website. Stop by the front desk or volunteer coordinator’s office if you already visit your community center.

  1. Local Religious Organizations

Whether or not you regularly attend worship services for a specific tradition, you can volunteer your time and skills to faith-related projects that correspond with your beliefs or service objectives. Faith groups of many kinds commonly fund or direct philanthropic initiatives at the local, national, and global levels.

The easiest approach to engage in a long-distance disaster relief effort without doing a lot of the heavy work yourself may be to join forces with a church, synagogue, or mosque that is pioneering such an endeavor.

If you are not already a part of a religious group, speak with friends or family members who are. Every congregation has various objectives, and many smaller places of worship lack the capacity to publicly display all of their philanthropic efforts.

  1. Nearby State & National Parks

State and federal park systems can only go so far with public funds and user fees. Their volunteers give much-needed maintenance and programming assistance.

Aside from the physical and mental health advantages of helping in the great outdoors, park volunteers may be compensated financially for their efforts. The National Park Work, for example, provides free interagency Volunteer Passes to volunteers who have completed more than 250 hours of service. Depending on how frequently you visit national parks with entrance fees, the annual value of your Volunteer Pass might potentially approach $100.

Volunteer.gov can help you locate volunteer opportunities in federally managed parks and natural areas near you. Check your state park system’s official website or the state volunteer portal for possibilities in state-managed parks.

  1. Animal Shelters & Adoption Centers

There is no better way to satisfy your passion for animals than to help and soothe those in need. There are several privately and publicly maintained animal shelters and adoption centers, but quality varies greatly, with abuse common in less reputable institutions.

Look to nationally recognized animal protection organizations such as the Animal Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals whenever feasible (ASPCA).

Cleaning cages, lifting litter, and hoisting animals are all examples of physically demanding volunteer possibilities in shelters. Minimum service lengths and workloads may be needed; for example, the Animal Humane Society needs volunteers to perform one two- to four-hour shift each week for one year. However, that’s plenty of time to fall in love with your future household pet.

  1. Food Banks & Homeless Shelters

It’s not uncommon for people in economically disadvantaged rural areas and expensive metropolitan areas to face food and housing instability. The only way you can truly help those in need is if you show up—literally—to your local food bank or homeless shelter on a regular basis.

Although every company is distinct, it should not be difficult to locate chances to give direct help to customer communities. The Atlanta Community Food Bank, for instance, asks for volunteers to help with things like:

  • Food contributions must be inspected and packaged.
  • Supervise and replenish public food shelves.
  • Take part in community gardening projects.
  • Collaboration with partner organizations that deliver donated food

The Atlanta Community Food Bank tells potential volunteers that they will be required to handle weights as large as 40 pounds, so prepare physically if you are interested in volunteering at a food bank.

  1. Disaster Relief Organizations

Every day, the news and social media are filled with graphic images of the damage produced by natural disasters as well as human activity. Consider becoming a disaster volunteer if you’d want to do more than just text $10 to the Red Cross or send a small annual gift to UNHCR or Doctors Without Borders.

Avoid booking a one-way plane ticket to the disaster zone. Volunteers who aren’t properly educated or coordinated might sometimes cause more harm than help in disaster zones. 

Both in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters and in the midst of continuing war, where human lives are at risk, this is even more important. In fact, most Red Cross volunteer positions require either paramedic certificates, specific training, or close supervision by Red Cross personnel and volunteers with advanced training.

Even so, the possibilities are limitless. Also, you need not leave your current location. Families who have lost their homes in single-structure fires can turn to the Red Cross for local support services including post-fire assistance.

  1. Organizations for Human and Civil Rights

This broad category includes organizations dedicated to helping people from historically disadvantaged populations, such as:

  • Refugees and immigrants
  • Individuals that are LGBTQ+
  • Members of ethnic and racial minorities
  • Individuals suffering from addiction or other chronic disorders
  • Individuals who cannot afford legal counsel

Opportunities for service are as varied as the groups themselves. Volunteers without particular skills or certifications might do the following:

  • Driving clients who do not have dependable transportation to appointments or places of work, or assisting them in navigating public transportation systems
  • Providing translation services to non-English-speaking clients
  • Client tutoring, particularly language teaching
  • Companionship for homebound clients and those adjusting to life away from home, such as refugees and survivors of domestic violence
  • Sorting through in-kind gifts
  • Participating in fundraisers

Service options are available for volunteers with more particular talents.

  • Administrative assistance or creative services, such as Web design or video creation
  • Pro bono professional services, such as legal or accounting advice
  • Counseling and treatment for people who have emotional demands
  1. Political and Advocacy Groups

Prospective volunteers who want to put their principles into action and make a difference in the world would appreciate this broad category. Included are the following:

  • Candidates for public office, as well as elected officials
  • Issue-oriented NGOs and political action committees, such as environmental justice organizations
  • Community advocacy groups, such as those working to improve the appearance of their neighborhoods or to reduce crime
  • Neighborhood and homeowner associations, for example, are examples of local political groups.

This area is just as diverse as the human and civil rights category above in terms of the number of service options available. Start here if you’re searching for a career that will help you improve your CV or if you want a creative outlet to go along with your day job.

To be on the safe side, make sure to check out any political action committees or issue-driven groups. The majority of the money raised by many ostensibly honest organizations is sent back into fundraising efforts or worse, into the pockets of the organization’s top leaders.

  1. Organizations for the Arts and Culture

Not every arts donor can afford to fund a theater performance or outfit a new museum wing. Even the most well-funded cultural groups rely on volunteers — or, to put it another way, patrons of more modest resources.

For example, instructors and trained artists can assist with high-value jobs such as holding seminars and guiding tours, which can be done by volunteers with in-demand qualifications or expertise.

Community theaters, which sometimes have limited financial resources, often rely largely on volunteers to cover positions that would otherwise be filled by full-time employees, such as set design, lighting, and videography.

Volunteer opportunities may be found on the websites of most arts and cultural organizations. These days, that’s the greatest method for groups in need of assistance to locate them. Get recommendations from friends and coworkers who are active in the local arts scene to locate hidden gems like community theaters without a marketing department.

  1. Adult Education

Find ways to lead or support adult education if you want a career in education or want to gain teaching experience in your chosen sector. There is always a need for qualified volunteers to help with English language learners and those seeking basic language and computer literacy skills at organizations like the Minnesota Literacy Council, which has equivalents across the United States.

When looking for adult education programs, consider your skill set and time limits when deciding what to pursue. Make sure you stick to things you’re familiar with, or better yet, are qualified or accredited in.

  1. Long-Term Care Facilities & Retirement Homes

To meet the fundamental needs of residents in nursing homes and long-term care institutions, there is enough personnel. Residents’ higher-order needs, such as sociability and creativity, can fall by the wayside if they don’t have the help of volunteers.

Despite varying requirements, most nursing homes and adult care institutions welcome volunteers in some manner. The Episcopal Homes care facility network in Minnesota, for example, encourages volunteers who:

  • Educate students on the fundamentals of using modern technologies.
  • Make it easier for people to work out at home.
  • Send out mail
  • Trivia and bingo games, for example, may be made easier to participate in.
  • Join forces with others in the community who are lonely and in need of a friend.

Pay attention to any time commitments. As a way to keep residents’ lives stable, care institutions often encourage volunteers to sign long-term service contracts.

Bottom Line

It was rewarding and a bit shocking to see all of my previous volunteer work laid out. To my surprise, I’d overlooked some one-off volunteer opportunities, and the list of organizations to which I’ve given my time over the years was more than I anticipated.

To top it all off, I’m not a big volunteer. It took me no more than four or five hours per week throughout the height of my volunteering efforts in 2017 and 2018. It’s possible for you to feel like you’ve made a difference in your community even with a small number of volunteer activities. When it comes to charitable giving, it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to get started.

I just compiled a list of all the service opportunities I can remember from my time in high school. It exceeded my expectations in terms of length and breadth. Since I turned sixteen, I’ve:

  • Trail maintenance was performed at a popular wildlife preserve.
  • I helped out in a no-kill animal shelter.
  • Once a week, I offered companionship to an elderly couple without children.
  • I taught English to newly arrived asylees.
  • Several neighborhood block parties were held.
  • My neighborhood association’s board of directors

All of this is not to boast. I don’t do a lot of volunteering. These obligations each required only a few hours of time each month. Rather, my own experience demonstrates how simple it is to get out there and volunteer for organizations and causes that coincide with your values and interests.

Of course, my experience is limited to one person. Each volunteer brings a distinct set of interests, abilities, and schedule flexibility to the table. Opportunities that appeal to me may not appeal to you, and vice versa.

Fortunately, the world is full of worthy organizations that value the contributions of unpaid volunteers. Whatever your abilities are in comparison to other volunteers’ or the issues you are most passionate about, you will undoubtedly discover many methods to give back without compromising your principles or ethics.

Where To Volunteer Your Time

The organizations and causes listed here are a selection of particular organizations and broad issues that merit your time and abilities. Keep in mind that opportunities may differ depending on your region, season, and skill level.

  1. Local Public Library

Volunteers are critically needed in public library systems, and not just for mundane tasks like replenishing shelves. Volunteer options at LA County Library, one of the largest library systems in the United States, include, for example:

  • Cleaning and organizing library items and exhibits
  • Participating in children’s programming, such as story times
  • Providing technical assistance to library users
  • Fundraising for library programs

Visit the website of your public library system to learn about current possibilities, or enquire at your nearest branch.

  1. Your community’s Parks and Recreation Department

Volunteers are almost definitely needed by your city or county parks and recreation department, particularly for seasonal activities such as spring cleanups, leaf collection, and picnic area maintenance.

For example, the Arlington Parks and Recreation Department provides both ongoing and one-time volunteer opportunities, such as:

  • Coaching teams in leisure leagues
  • Giving lessons at parks and recreation centers
  • Participating in park cleanup events
  • Staffing for special events held in parks
  • Garden bed maintenance

Many localities have volunteer coordinators on staff. Check with yours for information on outdoor volunteering possibilities in your area.

  1. Your Neighborhood Community Center

The majority of large cities have at least one community center in the heart of town. Larger cities sometimes have a greater number of community centers, some of which cater to certain demographics or types of programming, such as kids centers and senior centers.

Regardless of how it’s organized, your local community center or community center network is full of service possibilities. A variety of Chicago Youth Centers are in need of volunteers.

  • Students should be mentored and assisted with their schoolwork.
  • Supervise after-school activities
  • Organize arts & crafts projects.
  • Assist with the upkeep of grounds and gardens.
  • Assistance with building upkeep initiatives

Learn about volunteer opportunities in your town by visiting your local community center or municipal website. Stop by the front desk or volunteer coordinator’s office if you already visit your community center.

  1. Local Religious Organizations

Whether or not you regularly attend worship services for a specific tradition, you can volunteer your time and skills to faith-related projects that correspond with your beliefs or service objectives. Faith groups of many kinds commonly fund or direct philanthropic initiatives at the local, national, and global levels.

The easiest approach to engage in a long-distance disaster relief effort without doing a lot of the heavy work yourself may be to join forces with a church, synagogue, or mosque that is pioneering such an endeavor.

If you are not already a part of a religious group, speak with friends or family members who are. Every congregation has various objectives, and many smaller places of worship lack the capacity to publicly display all of their philanthropic efforts.

  1. Nearby State & National Parks

State and federal park systems can only go so far with public funds and user fees. Their volunteers give much-needed maintenance and programming assistance.

Aside from the physical and mental health advantages of helping in the great outdoors, park volunteers may be compensated financially for their efforts. The National Park Work, for example, provides free interagency Volunteer Passes to volunteers who have completed more than 250 hours of service. Depending on how frequently you visit national parks with entrance fees, the annual value of your Volunteer Pass might potentially approach $100.

Volunteer.gov can help you locate volunteer opportunities in federally managed parks and natural areas near you. Check your state park system’s official website or the state volunteer portal for possibilities in state-managed parks.

  1. Animal Shelters & Adoption Centers

There is no better way to satisfy your passion for animals than to help and soothe those in need. There are several privately and publicly maintained animal shelters and adoption centers, but quality varies greatly, with abuse common in less reputable institutions.

Look to nationally recognized animal protection organizations such as the Animal Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals whenever feasible (ASPCA).

Cleaning cages, lifting litter, and hoisting animals are all examples of physically demanding volunteer possibilities in shelters. Minimum service lengths and workloads may be needed; for example, the Animal Humane Society needs volunteers to perform one two- to four-hour shift each week for one year. However, that’s plenty of time to fall in love with your future household pet.

  1. Food Banks & Homeless Shelters

It’s not uncommon for people in economically disadvantaged rural areas and expensive metropolitan areas to face food and housing instability. The only way you can truly help those in need is if you show up—literally—to your local food bank or homeless shelter on a regular basis.

Although every company is distinct, it should not be difficult to locate chances to give direct help to customer communities. The Atlanta Community Food Bank, for instance, asks for volunteers to help with things like:

  • Food contributions must be inspected and packaged.
  • Supervise and replenish public food shelves.
  • Take part in community gardening projects.
  • Collaboration with partner organizations that deliver donated food

The Atlanta Community Food Bank tells potential volunteers that they will be required to handle weights as large as 40 pounds, so prepare physically if you are interested in volunteering at a food bank.

  1. Disaster Relief Organizations

Every day, the news and social media are filled with graphic images of the damage produced by natural disasters as well as human activity. Consider becoming a disaster volunteer if you’d want to do more than just text $10 to the Red Cross or send a small annual gift to UNHCR or Doctors Without Borders.

Avoid booking a one-way plane ticket to the disaster zone. Volunteers who aren’t properly educated or coordinated might sometimes cause more harm than help in disaster zones. 

Both in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters and in the midst of continuing war, where human lives are at risk, this is even more important. In fact, most Red Cross volunteer positions require either paramedic certificates, specific training, or close supervision by Red Cross personnel and volunteers with advanced training.

Even so, the possibilities are limitless. Also, you need not leave your current location. Families who have lost their homes in single-structure fires can turn to the Red Cross for local support services including post-fire assistance.

  1. Organizations for Human and Civil Rights

This broad category includes organizations dedicated to helping people from historically disadvantaged populations, such as:

  • Refugees and immigrants
  • Individuals that are LGBTQ+
  • Members of ethnic and racial minorities
  • Individuals suffering from addiction or other chronic disorders
  • Individuals who cannot afford legal counsel

Opportunities for service are as varied as the groups themselves. Volunteers without particular skills or certifications might do the following:

  • Driving clients who do not have dependable transportation to appointments or places of work, or assisting them in navigating public transportation systems
  • Providing translation services to non-English-speaking clients
  • Client tutoring, particularly language teaching
  • Companionship for homebound clients and those adjusting to life away from home, such as refugees and survivors of domestic violence
  • Sorting through in-kind gifts
  • Participating in fundraisers

Service options are available for volunteers with more particular talents.

  • Administrative assistance or creative services, such as Web design or video creation
  • Pro bono professional services, such as legal or accounting advice
  • Counseling and treatment for people who have emotional demands
  1. Political and Advocacy Groups

Prospective volunteers who want to put their principles into action and make a difference in the world would appreciate this broad category. Included are the following:

  • Candidates for public office, as well as elected officials
  • Issue-oriented NGOs and political action committees, such as environmental justice organizations
  • Community advocacy groups, such as those working to improve the appearance of their neighborhoods or to reduce crime
  • Neighborhood and homeowner associations, for example, are examples of local political groups.

This area is just as diverse as the human and civil rights category above in terms of the number of service options available. Start here if you’re searching for a career that will help you improve your CV or if you want a creative outlet to go along with your day job.

To be on the safe side, make sure to check out any political action committees or issue-driven groups. The majority of the money raised by many ostensibly honest organizations is sent back into fundraising efforts or worse, into the pockets of the organization’s top leaders.

  1. Organizations for the Arts and Culture

Not every arts donor can afford to fund a theater performance or outfit a new museum wing. Even the most well-funded cultural groups rely on volunteers — or, to put it another way, patrons of more modest resources.

For example, instructors and trained artists can assist with high-value jobs such as holding seminars and guiding tours, which can be done by volunteers with in-demand qualifications or expertise.

Community theaters, which sometimes have limited financial resources, often rely largely on volunteers to cover positions that would otherwise be filled by full-time employees, such as set design, lighting, and videography.

Volunteer opportunities may be found on the websites of most arts and cultural organizations. These days, that’s the greatest method for groups in need of assistance to locate them. Get recommendations from friends and coworkers who are active in the local arts scene to locate hidden gems like community theaters without a marketing department.

  1. Adult Education

Find ways to lead or support adult education if you want a career in education or want to gain teaching experience in your chosen sector. There is always a need for qualified volunteers to help with English language learners and those seeking basic language and computer literacy skills at organizations like the Minnesota Literacy Council, which has equivalents across the United States.

When looking for adult education programs, consider your skill set and time limits when deciding what to pursue. Make sure you stick to things you’re familiar with, or better yet, are qualified or accredited in.

  1. Long-Term Care Facilities & Retirement Homes

To meet the fundamental needs of residents in nursing homes and long-term care institutions, there is enough personnel. Residents’ higher-order needs, such as sociability and creativity, can fall by the wayside if they don’t have the help of volunteers.

Despite varying requirements, most nursing homes and adult care institutions welcome volunteers in some manner. The Episcopal Homes care facility network in Minnesota, for example, encourages volunteers who:

  • Educate students on the fundamentals of using modern technologies.
  • Make it easier for people to work out at home.
  • Send out mail
  • Trivia and bingo games, for example, may be made easier to participate in.
  • Join forces with others in the community who are lonely and in need of a friend.

Pay attention to any time commitments. As a way to keep residents’ lives stable, care institutions often encourage volunteers to sign long-term service contracts.

Bottom Line

It was rewarding and a bit shocking to see all of my previous volunteer work laid out. To my surprise, I’d overlooked some one-off volunteer opportunities, and the list of organizations to which I’ve given my time over the years was more than I anticipated.

To top it all off, I’m not a big volunteer. It took me no more than four or five hours per week throughout the height of my volunteering efforts in 2017 and 2018. It’s possible for you to feel like you’ve made a difference in your community even with a small number of volunteer activities. When it comes to charitable giving, it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to get started.

Curated posts

Someone from Oakland, CA just viewed Best Online Colleges for Adults Returning To School