Did you know that upwards of 1 million people search Google each month to help them find volunteer opportunities, and that search term has only increased over time? This tells us that 1) people want to volunteer and 2) that many people have problems finding opportunities that speak to them. It’s for that second reason that we’ve made this comprehensive guide of how best to search for and find volunteer opportunities “near me.” We want to give you the tools to find just the right opportunity for you. Note, this is a United States centric guide.
We’ve broken this up into a few different categories:
If you are reading this it means your are trying to find answers online. In truth, though, some of your best sources for volunteer opportunities near you are the people you know. This includes your friends, neighbors, family, and coworkers. Go through your list of connections to get ideas of who might be helpful to you. As an added bonus, your connections will help you build trust in specific volunteer opportunities and you might even get an introduction or volunteer partner.
Perhaps the biggest reason to survey your connections is that not every important volunteer opportunity runs through an organization. Sometimes people just need help but there isn’t a network set up to help them. For example, perhaps you know someone who has had a significant loss in their family, has experienced lingering effects from an illness, or who has been under financial stress. That person might be in need of some help but unsure who to ask or are too embarrassed to reach out.
When Helpspring is finished, it should help you easily survey your connections by showing you the volunteer opportunities they are involved with through the Helpspring social action network.
As with your connections, survey the organizations that operate in your area to see if they have volunteer opportunities near you that are a good fit. Here’s a good list of community groups to check out: local government, schools, service orders like Rotary or Kiwanis, religious groups, political parties, shelters and group homes, conservation boards, artistic organizations, and animal shelters.
The Big Four
These big organizations operate in every corner of the United States, and chances are they will have volunteer opportunities near you. Each of them has a search engine designed to let you find local volunteer opportunities:
Red Cross – disaster relief
Habitat for Humanity – building homes for families in need
Big Brothers Big Sisters – youth mentoring
United Way – a network of service organizations
Note: at this time the United Way search appears to be broken, but it is powered by Points of Light, which we’ll mention later.
We have already put together a couple of handy guides that are relevant for this section.
These next two sources are volunteer specific databases with local search capabilities so that you can find opportunities near you. Neither of these contain the social elements you’ll find in Helpspring, but they have a wide array of listings.
Points of Light Engage – a large collection of opportunities for volunteers, pulled from website and uploaded by organizations and individuals.
Volunteer Match – this free tool matches volunteers to nonprofits in their area.
MYOVO (Make Your Own Volunteer Opportunity)
We plan on writing a a separate post to help with discerning what makes a good volunteer opportunity for YOU. But we get it…trust in institutions in at an all time low in the United States, and not all areas that need help have the infrastructure to deliver that help. You may look through all the sources we’ve mentioned above and find none of them inspiring, and you might wonder if they are the best use of your resources and talents. When you can’t find a good fit, make your own. Identify a need in your community and start talking to people about it. Come up with a plan and put it into action. You’ve got this!
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