How to Start Volunteering

How to Start Volunteering

Thomson Reuters FoundationVolunteering is an exciting opportunity and a valuable use of your time to support the work of a charity you value. This may be because the particular organization you wish to serve has helped you or a close friend or relative, or simply because you admire what they do and how they help others and you’re keen to join them in doing so. Finding the right volunteering opportunity is often easier said than done, so here are three things to consider before you start.

(1) Consider the Type of Position

First of all, think carefully about what kind of opportunity you’re looking for: making a list with a few key specification points could prove helpful, since there are such a wide range of positions available and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Avoid applying for any and every position before you’ve fully considered all aspects; it will be a waste of your own time as well as those considering applications if you apply for roles you’re not really interested in taking.

Some key points to think about would be:

  • location of the work;
  • do you want to remain in your local area,
  • whether you are willing to commute or travel nationally as part of your role, or
  • if you are looking for a position overseas.

Also consider the working hours - are you looking for something that fits alongside your full or part-time job, or are you willing to work as a volunteer full time? In addition to working hours, you must be clear with any charities you apply to, and with yourself, about how long you are willing to volunteer for. It may be that you are happy to sign up to volunteer indefinitely, or perhaps you are looking for something to do during the summer holidays, or for another defined period of time. Being clear about this should help to narrow down the number of opportunities which appeal to you.

Of course, it is also imperative that you take into account the nature of the work required. If manual labour is required, obviously a certain level of physical fitness will be necessary. Most importantly though, you must think about the type of charity you wish to support, there are so many different charities out there, from providers of communications training courses to orphanage construction organizations, and it’s important you volunteer for something you’re really passionate about. The idea behind volunteering is to serve others, so making sure you’re able and willing to do so is key.

(2) Conduct Research

Once you have established exactly what you’re looking for, your search should be much more straight-forward. Carry out some research surrounding these key points, looking for the kind of charity you want to volunteer for, where the position is based, how long they need someone for and so on. You may need to consider funding. Can you afford any costs incurred in taking the role, or will you have to fundraise to do so, and how will you go about this? The next thing to do is to get in touch with the relevant people, to ask for any further information and find out exactly what the role entails, in order to ensure you think you are suitable for it.

(3) Application & Interview

Then comes the application and interview process. Treat both your written application and your interview as you would for a paid position, with your focus on why you value and want to support the charity and how you are able to do this. The danger with volunteer work is that applicants can have an inappropriate ‘you need me’ attitude, which does not fit with the vital and selfless work being undertaken by the charities concerned. Volunteer work usually includes all the difficulties and frustrations of paid work, so finding fitting candidates is essential to a non-profit’s success and your positive experience as a volunteer.

Get Started!

Finally, prepare to start work! The preparations necessary will depend on the nature of the work. If you are volunteering in an office, you may be required to wear professional clothing. If you’re going abroad, you’ll need to make travel arrangements, plan accommodation and potentially get some vaccinations.

Wherever your volunteering adventure takes you, plan well and make an effort to retain your initial enthusiasm for the cause, it will help during the difficult, frustrating, or sometimes simply boring situations!


About Thomson Reuters Foundation:

The Thomson Reuters Foundation has been informing, connecting and empowering people around the world for over three decades through their free programs and services. All proceeds from their income-generating commercial activities are reinvested in the Foundation’s activities. For more information about the Foundation, click here


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