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Give back with volunteer work

Volunteering is a great way for charitable men and women to give back to their communities. Many nonprofit organizations rely on the unsung contributions of volunteers to meet their mission statements, which may otherwise never be realized.

When seeking volunteer opportunities, men and women can quickly become overwhelmed by the volume of options available to them. But not all volunteering opportunities are equal, so prospective volunteers who want to be certain their efforts make a difference can take the following steps as they search for the right situation.

Determine what you can offer. Before beginning your search for a volunteering opportunity, determine what you have to offer and what you hope to offer. Prospective volunteers with extensive business experience may serve best by offering their professional expertise to a fledgling nonprofit organization, while athletic men and women may find coaching provides the best chance to combine their skillset and experience with their desire to give back.

Determine how much time you can offer. Some volunteer opportunities are more demanding than others, so figure out in advance how much of your time you can realistically devote to volunteering. Can you volunteer on weeknights or just weekends? Which times of day are you available to volunteer? Answering these questions in advance will ensure you find a volunteering opportunity that won’t prove too much, or too little, to handle.

Find something you want to do. As previously noted, sometimes the volunteers who get the most out of their experiences are those who offer their expertise in a given area. But it’s perfectly alright to look for a volunteering opportunity that is a stark departure from your professional life. Determine what you want to do, whether it’s tutoring youths, raising funds or anything else you may have a passion for, and then find an opportunity that allows you to do that.

Investigate the organization. You will likely take your volunteering efforts seriously, so you want to be sure the organization you ultimately work with is serious about its mission. Ask each organization you speak with about their programs and how those programs relate to the charity’s mission. Ask about the success rate of each program as well as the challenges those programs face. Prospective volunteers also can investigate an organization’s financial background via a site such as CharityNavigator.org, which rates charities in a host of categories with a goal toward promoting intelligent giving. Avoid any organizations that hesitate to share information about their finances and programs.

Keep your word. Upon committing to volunteer with an organization, many volunteers initially feel uncomfortable or hesitant to offer their input. That compels many to abandon their efforts entirely. But organizations truly rely on their volunteers to help them meet their goals, so keep your word and stay committed to the charity even if you feel some beginner’s anxiety. Arrive on time and do your best to live up to the commitment you made. Before you know it, you will feel right at home in your new role.

Volunteering is a great way to give back, and prospective volunteers can employ several strategies to find opportunities that combine their skills and experience with their passion for giving back.