How to Volunteer

Be a Helping Hand. Not an Obstacle.

Employing for Empowerment


Making the Most of Everyone’s Time

Are you directly involved with an organization or group of people who are making a positive difference in society? I hope so. One thing I hope you’re doing is giving financially. You are working hard at your job making money, and you share this resource with people in need. This type of assistance is every bit as useful and life-transforming as helping with your own hands and feet. You are transferring your own hard work to enable thoughtful professionals to provide assistance.

And being on the receiving end of this type of financial support, I can tell you every little bit helps. We have a program here that provides a meal and essential services for just a few dollars. You don’t need to make an impressive donation. Just provide a meal when you are asked and moved.

In addition to giving financially, some people enjoy getting involved by contributing their time, by volunteering. Again, being on the receiving end of this precious form of support I want to share a few things I’ve noticed about our most valuable volunteers.

Any organization worth your time volunteering is going to have a volunteer program. If they can truly use volunteers (and honestly, what organization can’t use free labor?) and know how to use them, they’ll have a volunteer program. So politely inquire using publicly available contact information, probably from their website. If you don’t hear back, try a few times, they may be busy. (And they could possibly use some volunteer assistance replying to interest from the community!) If you try a few times and still don’t hear anything, they may not be ready for your help yet. Move on to another organization that interests you and check back with them in a year or so. Insider tip: Don’t be ashamed to get their attention with a nice financial gift! Like I said, giving is direct support, it’s a donation of your time spent at your own job! And for some organizations, they may have an established process for communication and engagement with financial contributors that they haven’t been able to roll out to the community as a whole yet.

When you are contacted and able to volunteer, stick with the program! The organizers have given careful thought to their volunteer program. Don’t start a conversation about your interest in volunteering by telling them you are a marketing professional and you want to know if they have any related needs you can meet. Don’t get me wrong. This is a wonderful offer, but get to know the organization first by volunteering according to their own system (and by this point you’ve of course already given a financial gift as well).

At the organization I’m connected with, we use volunteers to register our program participants, distribute clothing, and prepare meals. This is truly the “heart” of our work. If you have specialized resources or talent you’d like to offer to the organization, doesn’t it make sense to understand what the organization’s work is all about first?

Then, be consistent. Don’t just volunteer once. There are very few, if any, organizations doing meaningful work in the world that benefit from you showing up one time. Volunteer once a week or once a month, or even once a quarter.

If you’re too busy for all this? Believe me, I get it! Give financially instead.

I recommend you plan to volunteer by yourself. I can just tell you based on my experience, it’s very rare even to see two people that are able to volunteer together consistently. If your plan is to volunteer with a friend or small group, rethink it. (I’ll make another post related with group and institutional volunteering another time.)