As our name implies, we love our volunteers. We rely on 2,000 of them to help scale our impact and serve hundreds of vulnerable families each month in the Chesapeake region.
As a volunteer, your time is valuable, and there are so many nonprofits and organizations that can use your help. How do you choose the right one? To help you figure out the best fit, we identified these five factors you should consider.
- Proximity. – This may sound obvious, but sometimes we overlook one major factor that makes our goals realistic: location. At times, it feels as if we need to pack our bags and travel across the world to help an underprivileged community – when in reality, volunteers are needed everywhere!Choosing to volunteer for a local nonprofit is a way to serve those in need, and build your community, all at once. Live in Baltimore? Prince George’s County? Virginia? There is a need for you and there is certainly no shortage of volunteer opportunities.
- Your strengths. – We’re all good at something. You don’t need a notable artistic ability or a genius poverty-ending plan to serve at an organization. Volunteering for a non-profit usually requires two things: showing up and a willingness to serve.Brainstorm ways you can help. Think about things like serving food, writing letters, donating school supplies, setting-up and breaking-down for a dinner, wrapping gifts, etc. Your time and presence are extremely valuable to nonprofits aiding at-risk populations. Recognize your strengths and just start!
- What’s important to you. –We become more familiar with our passions as we serve, but even as a first-time volunteer, you may already have an idea of what you care about.Have you or someone you know served in the military? If so, maybe spending time with veterans is your thing. Do you walk past homeless people on your way to work and wish there was something you could do to help? There is. Maybe the homeless shelter is where you should start. Enjoy preparing and serving food? How about trying a pantry or a soup kitchen? Again, you’ll grow even more familiar with your preferences as you go, but thinking about causes that move you is a good place to start.
- Your availability. – Are you looking for a one-time event like a Thanksgiving dinner or a monthly event, like a soup kitchen? Will you be working with a team, or by yourself? Make sure the nonprofit you choose offers programs that fit your schedule. Reminder: Volunteering is always a great calendar event to pencil-in!
- The heart behind the organization. – Why they do what they do is arguably the most important factor you should consider when deciding on a nonprofit. Read the organization’s mission statement and list of core values. Dig a little deeper and research the impact they’ve had on the community. Follow them on social media and familiarize yourself with their initiatives. If the organization is run by a team who genuinely pursues the vision of the organization, you’re in good company!