With over 15,000 volunteer opportunities on our site, we think there is something for everyone who wants to volunteer. However, we understand that sometimes, there’s nothing that quite fits what you’re looking for. Or, perhaps you are already volunteering, and want to take on new responsibilities, but aren’t sure where to start.
If either of these apply to you, you should consider DIY/Entrepreneurial/Independent Volunteering. By honing your skills and researching organizations that would benefit from your help, you can create a rewarding experience. Here are ways to craft a volunteer experience, from our Volunteer Information Center:
Let’s say you have a project in mind. Try answering the following questions to set parameters around the project:
- What do you need in order to be successful? This can be tangible stuff like tools or other supplies, or it can be more intangible like advertising time or online space to get the word out.
- Who do you need in order to be successful? Is this something you’ll take on by yourself or will you be looking for fellow volunteers? How many volunteers might you need to make your idea happen? What specific skills or political/social/community connections would be an asset? How might you partner with existing organizations, staff, and volunteers?
- How long will it take to achieve your goals? What is your timeline like? Do you have benchmarks or goals in place to measure how you’re doing once you get started? How will you measure and evaluate your progress? How will your project or role be sustained should you decide to move on—will you recruit a volunteer to take it over, seek to integrate it into an organization?
- Why this project or role? Be prepared with research and reasons to explain why your project or role is needed, as well as, if applicable, how it doesn’t duplicate any other efforts. For example, if you’re starting a new wildlife census program and one already exists in your area, you’ll need to be able to explain to potential volunteers, funders, or media contacts why you’ve created a new one and how it’s different.
Consider checking out the Volunteer Self-Organizing tool kit by The Resource Center, Corporation for National and Community Service to help you flesh out the details of your project.
After adding a little more structure to your project, you might want to reach out to organizations. Before you do that, remember to do the following:
- Be as specific as you can. Especially on what you might need from the organization and how your project or role fits with their mission. The more details you can provide, the more likely they are to take you up on your idea as it demonstrates that you are passionate about their cause, have done your research, and have thought everything through.
- Be ready to talk about what skills, experiences, and connections you can bring to the table. This helps make the case as to why you’re the right person to implement the project or take on the role.
- Be ready to commit. If you’ve got a great idea for a volunteer role or project but aren’t entirely sure you can follow through on what you promise, it may be a good idea to wait. Just as successfully creating and launching your independent volunteer role or project can be a great relationship and resume/CV builder for you, dropping the ball or doing the job poorly can potentially result in a damaged reputation for both you and the organization that invested in your vision (for more on the rights and responsibilities of volunteers, click here.)
- Be aware that not all organizations will be ready to give your proposed role or project a go: some may be hesitant because, frankly, they just don’t know you yet. Others may not have the capacity for, or perhaps even the interest in, your idea. Don’t let this get you down though; simply go back to the research drawing board to identify other potential partner organizations in your area and give them a try. If you’ve got a great idea and a plan to make it happen, chances are you’ll find a good fit somewhere. And of course, if you still can’t find a good partner…
- Don’t be afraid to go it alone. While in most cases it would be ideal to partner with existing organizations—they often have significant experience, connections, and resources that would greatly enhance your DIY project (as well as help you avoid duplicating efforts or reinventing the wheel)—you may in fact find that you’re in uncharted territory. However, if you’ve done your research and have a pretty clear idea about what you’d like to do and why it’s important, it’s worth taking the leap on your own.
Have you created a volunteer opportunity from scratch? Tell us about it in the comments!