Giving Compass' Take:
- Here are resources and insights to help you find volunteering opportunities that meet your needs and align with your values.
- How can you find volunteering opportunities with equity-aligned organizations?
- Learn more about the factors to consider when volunteering.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Donating is a great way to help your community, but volunteering can help you truly become a part of it. Its benefits extend beyond those who are helped: In a post-lockdown world — where 58 percent of adults report feeling lonely — volunteering could cement much-needed connections. Additionally, research shows volunteering actually boosts our overall physical and mental health and increases our sense of pride, motivation, and support.
“What brings me back here every single day is really the people,” said Juliana Soltys, a former volunteer and now the volunteer manager at Haley House, a Boston-based nonprofit that runs a soup kitchen, cooking classes, affordable housing units, and more for houseless individuals. “Every individual volunteer matters to us and we are just very grateful to have them in our space and getting to know them on a more personal level as well.”
But despite the very real need and the potential benefits for all involved, volunteering isn’t as popular as it used to be. Since 2000, the number of Americans volunteering fell, reports the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Between 2003 and 2005, more than 28 percent of Americans volunteered, according to the Do Good Institute. By the end of 2020, that number dwindled to less than 25 percent. 2020, of course, saw a decline in community participation due to the pandemic — but even now, in a post-pandemic world, nonprofits are struggling to find the necessary number of volunteers.
Volunteering can be a tough squeeze. For many, a lack of time or an inflexible schedule poses a hurdle. Then there’s the issue of finding an organization that aligns with your values. But the good news is volunteers are needed in so many different ways, from building homes to working from home. You don’t have to sacrifice other parts of your life to make an impact — you just need to be a bit creative to find the opportunities that fit your schedule, skills, and interests.
Just like when you’re deciding where to send your money, selecting the organization or the causes you want to aid — animals in need, kids in under-served schools, people escaping domestic abuse — is the first step to getting involved.
When you donate money, you’re probably concerned about where that money goes, or if it’s doing the most good it possibly can. Those worries matter: The most effective charities produce 100 times as much benefit as the average organization, Future Perfect writers Dylan Matthews and Sigal Samuel previously reported. No one wants to feel like their money isn’t helping — or worse, wasted.
Online platforms like GiveWell and Charity Navigator can help you find top-rated organizations globally. If your priority is to make the most significant impact with your time, these websites could help guide you. (Disclosure: GiveWell is also an advertiser on Vox podcasts.)
Meanwhile, VolunteerMatch won’t necessarily help you identify the most effective organizations, but it does let you look for opportunities that fit your location, causes of interest, and skills (and it allows you to filter for remote options).
Sometimes other groups that you’re already a part of, like recreational sports teams or book clubs, can lead you to your volunteer community. Some of the largest sources of volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps provide and build affordable homes, have been school groups and churches, said Boram Kim, the senior director of volunteer and institutional engagement at Habitat for Humanity International.
Read the full article about volunteering by Rachel DuRose at Vox.