As a society that often seems obsessed with money and objects, it’s easy to forget that not all of our work is rewarded with a paycheck. Volunteering can “pay off” in a variety of different ways, and it can be a lot of fun as well. Finding the perfect opportunity for you is easy- once you know what to look for.
The most important thing to remember when beginning a search for volunteering is to consider which issues you truly care about, and seek out opportunities that will allow you to work toward that issue. Volunteering can be very time consuming, so you should carefully select a cause that you won’t mind dedicating your valuable time working for free. Do you have a cousin who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer? Perhaps Susan G. Komen for the Cure would be a good fit. Obsessed with sorting your recycling into separate piles? Look for available opportunities at your local Greenpeace chapter. The best part is, there is something for everyone. No matter what it is you’re passionate about, there is almost certainly a preexisting organization dedicated to that cause. And if there’s not- consider starting your own!
After deciding on a cause and finding an organization that supports the cause, you will have to decide what type of commitment you are willing to make. Opportunities at many organizations vary from single-day events to helping 30 hours a week in an office. For those hoping to make more serious commitments, expect to sign documents that state you agree to organization policies, such as confidentiality waivers. You may even be interviewed as you would for a regular job!
For most, the extra resume boost is simply an added bonus to the altruistic factors of volunteering. However, volunteering can also be a great way for an individual to show off a certain skill or talent that they normally don’t get to use, such as playing music or helping decorate a venue. At certain events with an expensive ticket price, volunteering may even be seen as an alternative way to experience the event. Chicagoans familiar with the massive three-day music festival known as Lollapalooza may be surprised to discover that volunteering a few hours of their time at the festival may grant them complimentary admission. (Note: this opportunity is already at capacity for 2011).
For most nonprofits, volunteers are the heart and soul of the organization. Whether you want to make a commitment of one day or one year, know that your contribution is important and appreciated. To make the process even easier, there are a variety of excellent sites dedicated to helping individuals and groups find volunteer opportunities, such as VolunteerMatch.org, Idealist.org, and Chicagovolunteer.net. Good luck, and happy volunteering!