What kind of volunteer opportunity is right for you?

Datatel Volunteers Shelving Picture Books at Centreville Regional Library (Photo credit: Fairfax Library Foundation, Creative Commons/Flickr)

During this time of year, many people want to give back. But whether you are looking for a one-time opportunity or are eager to jump start a long-term volunteer experience, you should take some time to figure out what kind of volunteering you would like to do.

  • Hands-on: activities where almost anyone can show up and, with minimal training, get started (taking tickets, cleaning up parks, planting trees)
  • Skilled: tasks that depend on a volunteer’s particular skill set or experience (using graphic design skills to help an organization redesign brochures, building or maintaining a nonprofit’s website, providing legal advice for an immigration support agency)
  • Direct service: volunteering on the front lines of the organization and likely having direct contact with the population served (delivering meals, packing food bank boxes)
  • Advisory: serving in a more behind-the-scenes role to help build an organization’s capacity to reach their mission (providing feedback on strategic or fundraising plans, helping organizations learn more about using social networking sites and tools, serving on a committee or board whose role is largely oversight and governance)
  • Online: completing projects that you can do from anywhere in the world as long as you have email or internet access (translating materials, blogging, developing websites, advising on strategic plans)

Action steps

  • Think about what kinds of activities you really enjoy or have always wanted to try.
  • Do a skills assessment to see how you might be able to lend your personal and professional expertise to an organization, issue, or cause.
  • Think about where you want to get involved—behind the scenes, on the front lines, online.
  • Don’t forget to consider what you would like to gain from this experience—and what kinds of activities are likely to help you reach your own personal or professional goals.

What kind of volunteering do you enjoy?

This post is republished from our volunteer center.

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Comments (1)


  1. [...] Other websites talk about volunteers’ flexibility, creativity, and reliability. And on Idealist, we often share stories of volunteers who continue to give year after year, who are innovative, and who work to find the best way to use their skills. [...]


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