So You’re Thinking About Volunteering… What’s Your Next Step?

What better day to give more of yourself than today? Here’s how to get started…

It’s safe to say that telling myself I need to volunteer has become a daily occurrence. As opinions are becoming seemingly more divided, often more intolerant of one another, I want to know that I am doing what I can to support those causes in which I so firmly believe.

But it’s here that I must also admit to you that I haven’t done it yet. What if the kids need to be somewhere? What if I need to wrap that project up tonight? What if I’m too tired?  WHAT IF? WHAT IF? WHAT IF?

Well, I’ve decided to no longer make excuses for time that cannot be yet claimed. Before giving it away to errands or cleaning or MAYBE naps, I’m going to allow it the opportunity to stand for something good, to lend a hand to someone or something whose day could be made just a little bit brighter.

Before I get started — and if you want to board this train with me — it’s essential to:

1. Establish thyself.

What are your skills? What do you bring to the table? It’s sort of like the saying about not being able to love another until you love yourself… I imagine it’s pretty difficult to step into into an organization with which you have little in common, and find the innate confidence to make a difference. Make a list of those things that you’re good at, things that you LIKE doing. This will, in turn, direct you to ways that you know you can help!

2. How much of yourself can you REALLY dedicate?

This should be, above all, a fun and rewarding experience. Don’t feel obliged to spread yourself too thin. If there’s really only one hour per week that you can safely set aside to volunteer, then let that hour be your guide.

3. Do your research.

Check out national organizations, or investigate what’s available in your community. Volunteer Match is a great online tool to begin your search — their site allows you to see what’s available by city, or by area of interest. Idealist offers a vast list of both volunteer positions as well as jobs in the non-profit sector. And remember, there are institutions — literally in your backyard — that could benefit greatly from your time: schools, hospitals, senior care centers, animal shelters, churches, museums, crisis hotline centers, national parks…the list goes on.

4. Get to know as much as you can about a potential opportunity.

There’s no such thing as having too much information when it comes to volunteering. If you’ve found an organization whose mission seems interesting or intriguing or challenging or gratifying, take it all in! Arrange time to meet in person or tour their facility, if applicable. It’s of vital importance to ensure that comfort is found mutually.

5. Understand what is expected of you and be sure that you can accommodate.

After you’re established contact with your potential match, be sure to ask lots of questions. Leave no stone unturned, as the saying goes, so that you can make your most educated decision about pursuing the position. What skills are required of me in this role? What are the days/hours? Are they susceptible to change? Will I be working alone or in a group? Are there any potential risks? What documentation do I need to provide prior to starting? 

6. Just who needs my help?

Need is never-ending; therefore, your search may seem daunting at first. But, there are a many national organizations who are always looking for help, if that makes your initial search a bit easier to handle.

For example, Free People has been partnering with Girls Inc. for nearly 2 years as part of their mission to inspire young women to grow up strong, smart and bold. Their recent #GirlsToo campaign is especially notable, as it brings awareness to the issue of sexual harassment and violence and aims to change the conversation about it within our culture. (Go here to take the #GirlsToo pledge.)



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There’s no better time to start volunteering than Christmas! It makes such a meaningful family acitivity this time of the year too, reminding us to give back!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog