There may come a time in your life – job loss, a breakup, or just a sustained rut – when you have a lot of free time but not a lot of money to spend on activities. When this happens, it’s the perfect time to find opportunities to volunteer.
When I quit drinking, I suddenly lost much of my former social circle and found myself with a bounty of free time and energy. So I reached out to organizations I cared about to see how I could help. Because of that, I’ve helped find homes for stray cats, taken kids on field trips into the wilderness, explored the latest innovations in technology and design, met the actor Sam Elliott, and made friends who have changed my life in profound and permanent ways.
Volunteering can help you develop new skills, meet new people, broaden your horizons, and nourish your soul. There are so many great reasons to volunteer that nearly every able-bodied adult should be doing it.
Why you should volunteer
- A lot of people, animals, and organizations need your help.
- Making a positive contribution in a community you care about can help you buld healthy self-esteem and create the world you want to live in.
- It’s a great way to develop new skills. When you’re applying for jobs, sometimes it can seem as though “you have to already have experience to get experience.” Volunteering is an easy way to get that experience. The barrier to entry is lower and there’s generally less of an expected commitment.
- You can meet potential friends, romantic partners, professional connections, and animals you migth want to adopt. (Just don’t be creepy about it.)
If you put some thought into how you spend your free time, you’ll probably find you have more of it than you think – a few of those hours spent binging on television you don’t even like very much could easily be spent volunteering instead. When you’re ready to volunteer, you’ll find that the world is a grab bag of opportunities. You just have to put yourself out there.
How to find volunteer opportunities
- Explore volunteer opportunities with groups or organizations you already support or participate in. Usually, you just have to ask.
- Look online. Old-school social media platforms such as Faceook and Meetup are still abundant with volunteer opportunities.
- Ask friends, family, people you respect, or people you’d like to know better.
It’s easy to find volunteer opportunities. But you only have so many hours in the day, so it’s important to choose the right one.
How to pick the right volunteer opportunity
- Go where you’re needed. If you’re physically fit, offer your manual labor. If you have specific skills or experience, find out how to apply them.
- Pursue your interests. If you’ve wanted to explore a new topic of community, volunteering is a great way to get started.
- Know how much you’re willing and able to commit. If you only have an hour a week, keep it simple. If you have an overabundance of time, money, and social connections, join the board.
- Switch from a “cosumer mindset” to a “producer mindset.” If you love food, eat fewer expensive restaurant meals and volunteer at a soup kitchen. If you love sports, try coaching in a youth league – it’s fun to watch, and it can be a lot more gratifying to participate. Rather than buying a dog, try volunteering at an animal shelter.
- Try different things. The first thing you try may not be the right one. Volunteering is the easiest and most rewarding way to acquire a diversity of experience.
When you’ve found a volunteer opportunity you really click with, you can help others get involved, as well. This will create a ripple effect that will enrich your life in ways you never imagined and genuinely make the world a better place. Even if you’ve never volunteered before, it’s always a good time to get started. When you start looking, opportunities are easy to find.