How to Find Great Volunteer Opportunities Near You
Looking for a rewarding way to support your community? Consider volunteering your time to a local cause or organization you care about. Love your furry friends? Maybe you can walk dogs at your local animal shelter. Passionate about political change? Join a local advocacy group or become an online “slacktivist.” (Yep, it’s a thing.)
Whatever your passion, chances are there’s a local organization that supports your interest — and needs volunteers. If you’re not quite sure where you’d like to help out, no problem. You can browse through volunteer opportunities near you on sites like VolunteerMatch, All for Good and Idealist. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Keep Your Community Safe, Clean and Green
Take pride in where you live — find opportunities to help fight crime in your neighborhood, keep it clean and make it beautiful.
- Monitor your neighborhood: Organize a group of neighbors to meet with local law enforcement officers to establish a neighborhood crime watch program in your area. Share news of any unusual people or criminal activity (from stolen mail and packages to car break-ins) with your nearby neighbors.
- Keep it clean: Ask your city’s public works department if they need volunteers to help gather trash or pull weeds at your local parks, roadsides or nearby forest preserves.
- Revitalize the green: Help replenish urban tree canopies. Volunteer to plant free and low-cost neighborhood trees with organizations like Pennsylvania’s TreeVitalize or Oregon’s Friends of Trees. Work with the Nature Conservancy to maintain natural areas in your state.
Be Passionate About People
Assisting people in need may benefit your community and build long-lasting personal ties between you and the people you help.
- Help feed the hungry: Be a friendly face to the elderly and people with disabilities when you deliver free or low-cost warm lunches through your local Meals on Wheels chapter. Or, volunteer to sort and pack food items at your local food bank for low-income residents.
- Support the children: Sign up at your local grade school to assist kids who need extra academic help or to coach a sports team. Lead children’s group activities at a local family shelter. Advocate for children who are in foster care through the Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program.
- Help the elderly: Spend time with residents at a local assisted living center — play cards, paint fingernails or just chat. Help out at special events and fundraisers sponsored by organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association. Help a local senior with home repairs. Check with your local senior center about volunteering to run errands or do grocery shopping for neighborhood seniors.
Many organizations have volunteer tasks you can do offsite, on your own time. You’ll typically need a phone, computer and/or internet access.
- Share your technical savvy: Many nonprofits welcome skills-based volunteers, from web developers to designers and content creators. Help agencies create or improve their websites, write articles, offer tech support and more.
- Become a slacktivist: This “slacker” and “activist” combo refers to completing actions or creating programs online to support social and political causes. The time commitment is usually minimal. Examples of slacktivisim include emailing your elected officials about important issues up for vote, signing online petitions and posting information on your own social media account or that of your favorite organization.
- Be a good listener: Crisis lines, such as the Crisis Text Line, train volunteers to talk to and text with people who are experiencing severe emotional distress. The National Alliance for Mental Illness’ website (nami.org) lists a number of national crisis lines that accept volunteers.