I’ve noticed that a lot of readers find this blog through search engines, seeking out volunteer opportunities or information on the recipients of volunteering – eg, homeless people, soldiers overseas, etc. I thought a brief article on finding volunteer opportunities might be helpful.

First, tried and true: a lot of volunteer opportunities can still be found in the newspaper.

Second, getting with the modern world: the Internet makes finding volunteer opportunities easy! To avoid being overwhelmed by the hundreds of options, here are a few tips for finding your best match:

1) Volunteer Websites like Idealist.org and VolunteerMatch.org

These websites allow you to input your specific interests, location, skills, etc to help you find the opportunities you’re most interested in.

2) If you’ve heard of an organization that interests you, CALL THEM!

Non-profits and other social agencies, including places like schools, museums, hospitals and libraries, are often hugely dependent on volunteers. Your local school, library, or other organization might not be actively advertising for volunteers, but they almost definitely would be thrilled to have you. If they can’t use your help, they might have suggestions for times of year or specific projects for which they really could use your help, or know of similar organizations you could contact.

On a related note, I really do mean “call,” not email. Many, if not most, volunteer-dependent organizations are extremely busy, and I’ve often found you have better luck going through telephone than email to make the first contact.

3) Some interests are less likely to be advertised obviously – but there are still opportunities

It can be a little more tricky to find appropriate volunteer opportunities for some interests. For instance, I LOVE writing letters. I just tried googling “write letters, volunteer” and didn’t find much of interest. I had slightly – very slightly – more luck with “volunteer to write letters.” But essentially, the trick with this one is going to be to keep an open ear, talk to people, and think broadly. For instance – I write regularly to a Marine and two Soldiers who I found through AnySoldier.com. I learned about AnySoldier from a news article. I’m also in a reading PenPal program that I learned about when my friend posted about it on Facebook.

4) If you see, act

If you see an opportunity to start a project, do it! Most volunteer organizations exactly that way – someone saw an issue or had a hobby, got a few friends together, and tried it!

Have a great story about starting a volunteer project? Leave a comment to tell me about it!