The benefits of volunteering are far-reaching. Positive effects can be felt by both the communities in which volunteers serve and by the volunteers themselves. It has been shown that giving back through volunteering your time and talent can have emotional and psychological benefits. It can also help shed light on potential career paths and create a network through which jobs can be found when the time is right. Whether you are a college student searching for the appropriate major course of study or someone mid-career interested in changing paths, volunteering can be a way to figure out your next steps.
Volunteering for a non-profit organization can be a great way to build up a resumé while deciding if a particular job sector is truly of interest to you. The work is rewarding, often requires no long-term commitment and the hiring process frequently is not as competitive as with a for-profit company.
Non-profit work eventually pays for itself. After a few months or years of volunteer work, job applicants can truthfully say they “have experience.” To an employer, non-profit work also means that an applicant cares about the community and has a sense of responsibility. Also, through your time volunteering, you will have made connections and created an invaluable network of like-minded professionals that you can call on for many years to come.
There is a non-profit organization out there for virtually every interest. Someone who likes art can volunteer at the local art museum. Someone who likes reading can volunteer at a library. Most cities have hundreds of non-profit groups, so it would be virtually impossible for you to research each one. To help guide you, what follows is a broad, but not exhaustive, list of charitable focus areas. Choose an area that looks particularly interesting, and research the non-profit groups within it in your city. Through volunteering, you may just find your perfect career path.
Animals: Animal-focused non-profits often are no-kill animal shelters or breed-specific rescue societies. Some animal non-profits introduce pets to disadvantaged groups, such as low-income children, people with disabilities or the elderly.
Arts: Opportunities in fine and performing arts organizations range from giving tours at an art museum to performing with a dance troupe.
Children and Youth Services: These organizations focus on families, offering services like counseling for children and parents, foster care placement and free health care.
Community Development: These non-profit groups tend to zero in on specific neighborhoods or populations. They often are based in low-income housing areas, where they offer services such as health care and tutoring.
Disabled Persons: Some non-profit organizations help people with mental and physical disabilities. They offer life-skills training, community living services and recreational activities for children and adults with disabilities.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault: These groups provide emergency assistance to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Typical services include 24-hour telephone help lines, walk-in clinics and safe houses.
Education: Educational non-profit groups often tutor children, teach adults to read and write, and teach a second language to non-native speakers.
Elder Care: Elder care volunteer opportunities include helping senior citizens perform everyday tasks, such as driving to the doctor or fixing dinner. Some non-profits in this category help take care of elderly people with long-term illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Environment and the Outdoors: This category typically includes non-profit activities that take place outside. For example, nature conservancies work to protect the environment.
Health: Health-based non-profit organizations often provide medical care to those who cannot otherwise afford it. Others help terminally ill patients and their families cope financially and emotionally with their illnesses. Organizations that help individuals with drug and alcohol addictions also are included in this list.
Homelessness: Most non-profit organizations that combat homelessness operate shelters where people sleep and eat. Sometimes, they actually build homes for those in need; others help the homeless find jobs and affordable housing.
Hunger and Poverty: These organizations donate food, clothing and other basic items to needy individuals and families.
Legal Assistance: Legal advocacy non-profits offer low-cost legal services to low-income residents. They often represent individuals in child custody, divorce and domestic violence cases. Some legal assistance groups specialize in helping children or the elderly.
Umbrella Organizations: Many non-profit organizations oversee a broad range of activities or give financial assistance to numerous charitable organizations. A non-profit jobseeker can start at the umbrella organization and read about its non-profit members. Better yet, some non-profit umbrella organizations maintain their own job databases.