Forever, I have wanted to volunteer more than my yearly contributions to my
favorite charities. I always think I will when I have the time, energy,
funds etc. Well, that may be a long time. So I think the time is now. I am
wondering about how to choose, where to start. I am feeling overwhelmed by
the many causes I would like to find out about: from eldercare to Darfur to
adult illiteracy, to eradicating hunger, the list is endless and I find
myself not knowing how to begin. Does anyone have any insight?
These are really great questions. As a volunteer manager for a not-for-profit, I
can give you some sound suggestions that will help you - and the group that you
will eventually volunteer with:
1) Do you want to work WITH people or FOR people? What I mean is, do you want to
be hands on with the people that you're serving or be a soldier in wings?
2) How much time per week/month do you have to commit. Be realistic. A lot of
agencies will say, "An hour a week is all it takes". But, the reality may be
that you need to do some hefty commuting back and forth, you might need to do
documentation, you might need to do prep work...and on and on in addition to
3) Are you planning on staying in the NYC area for a decent period of time? Look
into the future (2 to 3 years out) will you still be here? Organizations spend a
lot of time and money on training volunteers and want to know that they're
investment will stay there.
4) Some organizations ask that their volunteers not only give their time, but
also their funds. Are you in a place financially to be with that agency?
Start by taking your top three causes and look into them. They probably have a
good website. Other places to research volunteer options are idealist.org,
nycares.org and volunteernyc.org.