Sometimes, one of the hardest parts of volunteering can be finding a volunteering opportunity that fits your personality. We created this comprehensive list to help you find the perfect match. There is much work to be done in many areas.
If you live in a city of any size, then there is at least one homeless shelter that helps homeless people with meals, beds and other services. Most homeless shelters welcome volunteers and have a variety of programs through which you can get involved. You might:
- Help prepare or distribute meals.
- Work behind the scenes in the business office.
- Help organize a food drive to stock the pantry, etc.
- Collect clothes for residents of the shelter.
- Deliver a "brown bag" lunch directly to the homeless.
Food banks often work with homeless shelters, but they also serve poor people living in the community (especially around the holidays). By volunteering at a food bank, you could:
- Collect food
- Manage their inventory.
- Distribute food to those in need.
Wishes for Children
Thousands of children have enjoyed the magical experience of having a cherished wish fulfilled through the Children's Wish Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing joy and hope to seriously ill children and their families by involving the public in putting children first with opportunities to experience the enhanced value and quality of life through the magic of a fulfilled wish. You can help by
- Referring a child
- Volunteering for Children's Wish
- Fulfilling a wish
Parks & Outdoor Areas
Many city and state parks offer volunteer programs, and in these programs you can do any number of things, including:
- Educational programs
- Trail construction and maintenance
- Pick up/clean up trash
- Plant flowers, shrubs, or trees
Literacy & Learning
Reading is one of the most important skills an adult can have. Many adults, however, have never learned how to read.
- Literacy volunteers act as tutors who help illiterate children and adults learn this important skill. There is probably a literacy program in your area especially in your public library.
- Illiteracy and crime are linked. Prisons and jails need literacy programs as well.
- Collect used paperbacks and novels to donate to libraries, prisons, jails, shelters or give them to homeless people on the street.
Tutoring & Mentoring
The limited resources of many public schools, especially those in urban areas, results in inadequate education for many children. Tutors and mentors are vital to children's education. Some schools have tutoring programs in place, but tutoring is still an option for those schools without such programs.
- Adopt a school and tutor students in math or reading.
- Do not forget about children in shelters (women's shelters or homeless shelters). They need extra help since they have probably missed a lot of school due to circumstances out of their control.
- Set up an online tutoring program with a local district or classroom. Create or correct math problems.
- Become a classroom contact. Have online email computer buddies with students in an elementary class.
Numerous environmental groups encourage volunteer support to help with environmental activities. You can help in many ways:
- Help lobby on conservation issues.
- Lead hikes and other activities.
- Lend a hand at the offices of environmental groups.
- Start a REUSE, REDUCE, AND RECYCLE campaign or ask your local recycling center if there is a project they need done.
See the Earth Day website.
There are so many ways to help non-human animals. The myriad of organizations welcome volunteers to help in a number of ways:
- Volunteer at your local humane society, walk dogs, socialize cats, help with adoptions, keep facilities clean, work with the public, provide humane education, and assist with general office support.
- Lobby for animals. Join the Humane Activist Network and help pass animal protection laws.
- Start a vegetarian or animal advocacy club at your workplace, school, or church.
- Help leaflet and table for various animal protection organizations.
As described in their mission statement, the Special Olympics is an international program of year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with mental retardation. They offer a number of different volunteer activities, including
- sports training
- administrative help
- competition planning
- staffing, etc.
Habitat for Humanity builds and gives houses to poor people in local communities. Volunteers not only help others but can learn a great deal about building houses by getting involved. See the Habitat for Humanities website for more information.
Many hospitals have volunteer programs to help patients both inside and outside the hospital. Contact local hospitals to learn more about opportunities in your area.
Many libraries need help:
- reshelving books
- running children's programs
- making books available to the community
Contact a local library for volunteer opportunities in your area.
Many senior citizen centers offer volunteer programs to provide friendship and community activities to senior citizens. If you would like working with senior citizens, call a senior citizen center in your neighborhood and see what kinds of volunteer programs they have available. Some ideas are:
- Do yard work at an elderly person's home.
- Play chess or checkers with an elderly person regularly.
- Lead activities such as free weights and exercise, stretching, or yoga at a senior center.
Most large cities offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities.
Look in the phone book and call around to see what might be available where you live. Do not be discouraged if your first few calls seem to hit a brick wall. Many city governments are large and fairly disorganized. Keep calling around until you find someone who understands what you are talking about and who is willing to help. Some ideas include:
- Identify (or create) and brighten a public play area or an inner city building with a beautiful mural. Many cities have public mural programs. See Philadelphia's amazing Mural Arts program for some inspiration.
- Paint poles and swing sets in bright colors at a playground.
- Fix and secure swings and slides.
- Place wood chips and create slide landings.
Volunteer opportunities exist in blood banks across the country. Use the phonebook to find a local blood bank by visiting our in your area.
Disaster Relief Organizations
Volunteers are extremely vital during times of disaster whether it is manmade or Mother Nature-made.
If it is an election year, there are thousands of opportunities to volunteer in political campaigns around the country. You can learn more than you imagine by helping a candidate win election. Pick a candidate whose ideas you believe in (either on the local, state or national level) and volunteer to be a part of his or her campaign.
800 Number Volunteers
Many 800 help-lines rely on volunteers to staff the phones and handle other tasks. If there is an 800 phone bank in your area, you may be able to volunteer to help out.
Local YMCAs/YWCAs and boys and girls clubs have numerous volunteer opportunities from childcare to sports coaching. Contact your local boys/girls clubs for more information.
Museums are wonderful places to volunteer. They are educational and helpful to all. Contact any museum (art, sculpture, science, children's) in your area to find out more.