How to Find the Perfect Volunteer Position

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Are you at that point in your life where you have a longing to give back? Are you passionate about a certain cause? Or, are you looking for the perfect volunteer position that is going to give you a foot in the door with a new career? The reasons are many. But, approximately 25% of the US population volunteers. Regardless, volunteering may change your life at the same time it changes the lives of others.

Here are a few things to think about before jumping in.

1. What Causes are You Passionate About?

Here are a few categories that will get you started. Selecting a passion is the thing that is going to keep your going when the work gets mundane. Source: VolunteerMatch.org. Click on Show more to show the entire list.

2. What Can You Do to Further Refine Your Search?

Great, let’s say you are interested in X. You know, there are probably thousands of volunteer positions out there right now involving X? So, the point of this step is to start to narrow things down. For example, are you looking for something in your community or something virtual? Are you looking to put your toe in the water with a one-time event or, are you looking for a long-term engagement? Do you have a long vacation coming up? Are there times in the year that you won’t be available?

3. How Much Time You Have Available?

Everyone is busy. And, even though you aren’t super busy right now, what we have found at Run-Walk Events (RWE) is that people’s schedules change… a lot. Volunteers start out spending an hour a day or more. But, something enviably clicks at home or work (or both) and they fall off the grid. Before you make a commitment, be very careful to ensure you truly have the time. You might even want to speak with your boss (and definitely your partner) and let him or her know that you are thinking about volunteering. It is best that everyone that depends on you is on the same page. At Run-Walk Events, most of our positions are geared to 2-4 hours a week.

4. Where Should You Look?

There are lots of websites that offer volunteer positions out there. Here are a few of our favorites.

  1. VolunteerMatch.org
  2. Idealist.org
  3. Createthegood.org
  4. Google.com – here are some suggested keywords: (name of your city) volunteer (keywords from the prior steps)
Source: Inc.com

The next few steps help you to narrow down your targets. Make sure to ask the following questions during your email initial interchange or interview.

5. Do They Leverage your Key Strengths?

When I was a full-time employee, I dreamed of a job that would fully exercise all of my gifts. But, I found, that my job was often limited to the same few things, over and over again. This is where volunteering comes in. Since you are in the driver’s seat, you can (and should) be clear about your strengths and which ones you want to use. Finding a good match between your strengths and the needs of the nonprofit are is probably the second most important thing to seek after determining that they support a cause you are passionate about. No one wants to make cold calls all day.

6. Does the opportunity allow you to Learn New Skills?

At RWE, we work with a lot of folks who are either still in school or somewhere mid-career looking to break into something new. And, this is where experience with a nonprofit can make a really big difference for you. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a nonprofit that leverages your strengths AND gives you the opportunity to build new skills. Even if you are retired, we are all looking to learn and grow. And, if you are planning to continue donating a portion of your time, why not retool your skills so that you can make an even bigger difference? There are a lot of volunteer positions out there. But, they are all missing one fundamental thing. At RWE, we always ask the question: “How can we make this a win-win for you?” Careful consideration of the volunteer’s goals is critical for a successful placement.

There are a lot of volunteer positions out there. But, they are all missing one fundamental thing.

7. Does the nonprofit write recommendation letters?

At RWE, we always offer to write recommendation letters or reviews on the volunteer’s LinkedIn after 90 days of satisfactory work. It actually doesn’t take very long because I have a template that I use. And, all I need to do is fill in a few places and WAMO, I have a recommendation letter. I even have an electronic version (photograph) of my signature that I add to make it official. And the recommendation letter, of course, includes our letterhead. If your contact doesn’t mention a recommendation letter up front, you might consider asking about it.

8. Does the nonprofit seem to have their act together?

In many ways, nonprofits are startups. Some are just scraping by. And, the very fact that they are looking for volunteers could be a sign that they need more help that you can offer. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to ask if there is a role statement that you can review. Something outside of the job posting that goes into a little more depth. Our organization writes “How to” documents that include checklists for most of our roles. We also use Trello, a project management tool to keep everything running smoothly. Make sure you ask how you will get up to speed with your position and who will be giving you direction.

9. Do They Allow You To Interact with a Team?

Many people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They are looking to work with others to obtain a goal. Volunteers want to share their knowledge and they hope to learn from others as well. If you are looking to work on a virtual team, make sure that the nonprofit has collaboration tools. No one wants to email document attachments back and forth using your personal email address. At RWE, everyone gets access to G Suite (Google’s suite of tools for email, contacts, calendaring, document management and storage). We also support Slack which is a chat tool that supports direct messaging and group discussions with integration with Trello and Google Drive/Docs.

About the Author

Darren Van Soye

Currently the Chairman of Run-Walk Events, Darren Van Soye is a twenty-five year veteran in the high-tech industry, including long-term engagements in the Aerospace, Financial and Justice industries. He was certified as a Project Manager (PMP) in 2006, with re-certification in 2009. Darren is a marathoner, ultramarathoner, and Ironman. In 2015, Darren was one of seven athletes crossed the USA, running from Huntington Beach, CA to Washington DC as part of the Race Across the USA.

About Run-Walk Events

Run-Walk Events, Inc. is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation. Our purpose is to organize world-class running and walking events in support of community fitness. If you are interested in reviewing our open positions, you can check them out on our volunteer page.