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How to Start Volunteering: Where to Start, What to Expect, and How to Find the Best Volunteer Opportunity for You

By: Natalie

At the beginning of every new year, I always take a few moments to reflect. My 2019 was defined by the word appreciation. I am beyond thankful for my family, friends, and mentors. It was an amazing year and I owe it all to the people I love. 

I’m hoping to continue to foster appreciation and gratitude in my life, especially in this new decade. One way I’ve been proactive with this goal is that I have specifically been giving some of my time to help others in need. Within just a few weeks, it’s already allowed me to express my gratitude by helping the community around me.

As the holiday season has quieted down and the new year has gotten into full swing, it is the perfect time to give back to those who truly need it. Grab a few friends, family members, or co-workers and put your spare moments to use! Below, I created a quick guide to find the best volunteer experience for you. (I also included a story from a recent volunteer experience of mine. 😉 )

Your Detailed Guide to All Things Volunteering

Where to Find Volunteer Postings and Opportunities 

Finding the right volunteer opportunity does not have to be stressful or difficult. The internet is a great place to find experiences that are specific to your city, community, and areas of interest! Volunteer matching sites help volunteers connect with the right organizations to do good for the world Without much additional searching at all. I listed three sites that can help match you with the perfect opportunity – pick a favorite or try them all out to see if there’s a perfect match!


VolunteerMatch asks you to put in some quick information about your preferences, such as job type and location, and then the site provides you with a list of opportunities near you. This website is great for people who might already have a broad idea of the type of work they would like to do since that’s one of the big areas where they narrow down your list of potential opportunities.


Idealist allows you to specify the type of work you would like to do, as well as interests, skills, and location. This tool also allows you to search for opportunities outside of the United States. Idealist is great for people who have a more detailed idea of what volunteer work they are passionate about, but it’s also a great place to look if you’re interested in volunteering while on a work trip or on vacation.

All for Good

All for Good provides users with the ability to search for locations or within specific organizations. There’s also a feature to make your own project listings, so you may find opportunities with some smaller organizations that don’t have the budget to be listed elsewhere. All for Good is a wonderful tool to begin the volunteer search because it’s very user-friendly and easy to migrate through, even if it’s your first time on the website.

Volunteer Opportunities for Professionals and Executives

If you are a professional or executive looking for a volunteer opportunity, there are plenty of postings that are after work hours that involve skill sets that suit your needs! Whether you’d prefer something more team-oriented that involves collaboration, or an opportunity where you can work independently at home, there’s something that will work well with your busy schedule. For example, consider:

  1. Bookkeeping for a non-profit 
  2. Manage a fundraising event 
  3. Mentor children and young adults

Volunteer Opportunities for College Students 

With a busy course load, most college students require opportunities with flexible work hours, bonus points if they are are related to education. The volunteer opportunities I listed below would be great for an individual or a group, so consider volunteering with friends from your dorm or bringing a group from class or an extracurricular activity to volunteer with you, too.

  1. Mentor students at a local school 
  2. Clean up the community around campus 
  3. Lead a fundraising event on campus

Volunteer Opportunities Outside of the United States

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity outside of the United States, there are always organizations seeking individuals to help those in need. Volunteering abroad can be very rewarding, and there are postings for all different interests and skill sets. I have included three choices that would leave a big impact on the world!

  1. Teach English to communities around the world 
  2. Aid communities in disaster relief
  3. Save rainforests by creating sustainable practices in nearby communities  

Volunteer Opportunities for Families 

Kid-friendly volunteer opportunities are a little bit more difficult to find, but they do exist! When you volunteer as a family, you have the opportunity to teach your kids empathy by meeting others from different backgrounds and stories, and you’ll bond more as a family! A few different opportunities that you might want to consider include: 

  1. Bring a game and share your stories with a youth shelter 
  2. Host an exchange student 
  3. Talk with residents at a retirement community

Feeling inspired by one of these ideas? Type them into one of the volunteer matching sites to find an opportunity in your area. 

Everything Makes a Difference 

Recently, I had two amazing volunteer experiences that were truly life-changing. During December, I ran a month-long campaign to give families in need a Christmas to remember. I partnered with a local elementary school and received over 150 gift ideas for kids ages 2-15.

I organized the lists and gifts as they came in and then got together a group of people to help with the wrapping. I felt so grateful seeing all of the gifts pile up, but it was the smile from the elementary school’s counselor that truly made my day. Something as simple as purchasing a gift for someone in need can have a huge impact and that idea has stuck with me ever since.

Later on, towards the end of the holiday season, I volunteered at a women’s center that specifically helps single mothers in need. I spent my day putting together diaper packs and baby kits. Then, I had the opportunity to talk to the mothers firsthand to write down their specific needs.

All of the supplies, such as diapers, formula, pacifiers, and clothes, were donated to the center. Everyday companies, individuals, churches, and groups donate supplies to help families in need, and I was amazed to see that nothing ever seemed to run out!

Hearing the stories from the mothers was truly humbling and reminded me to be more aware of the lives around me. Everyone was so thankful and it filled my heart with appreciation for my community.

In this year, I want to give more time to serve others because everything makes a difference. I hope some of the ideas above have inspired you to get out there to help the community and world around you!

Create a great life!

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