You want to donate some of your time to do good, but can’t decide what to do? Fantastic sites like volunteermatch.org, idealist.org, and volunteer.gov list thousands of volunteer opportunities for you to consider. With so many places to volunteer these days that it can be overwhelming.
We’ve whittled down the options to five especially unique volunteer opportunities that are sure make you feel and do good.
Recruit your Pet to Volunteer
Want your pet to get in on the volunteering action? Think your pet’s love can comfort people in need? Then Pet Partners is the perfect opportunity for you. It was started in 1977 when veterinarians and doctors began to observe the positive effects pets had on human patients. They decided to research the phenomenon and found that animal companions can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and promote social interaction.
Now Pet Partners has created the Therapy Animal Program which trains volunteers and their pets to become Therapy Animal Teams! As a result people are able to share the health and social benefits of their pets with people in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, nursing homes and child welfare facilities.
Dogs aren’t the only one who can share the love. Pet Partners also trains cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, llamas, alpacas, horses and donkeys to become therapy animals!
So if you think your furry friend has love to share, you can find out more about how to become a Therapy Animal Team on their site.
Utilize your Crafting Abilities
If you love stamp and ink pads, stenciling and crafty fun then utilize your creative abilities to bring a smile to the face of someone in need.
Anyone with a simple set of supplies can volunteer from home by making cards or blankets for people in need of a little comfort.
Ask local hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, etc. if they have card or craft exchange program and check out these organizations below:
- Cards for Hospitalized Kids: An organization that collects and distributes uplifting handmade cards to hospitalized children across America.
- Color a Smile: This non-profit sends cards to senior citizens, troops, hospital patients and anyone in need of a smile. They have both coloring templates and free draw cards.
- Project Linus: An organization where you can make or donate blankets for children in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies, or anywhere that a child may need some extra comfort. If you’re very skilled you can sew a quilted blanket but for those of us who are a bit less crafty you can make a no-sew fleece blanket!
TWEET, TWEET, TWEET
Use your passion for sharing, liking, Instagramming, hashtagging, posting and retweeting for the greater good of mankind.
Many small non-profits spend so much time with hands-on work, that they have little time to work on things like marketing. That’s where you come in! Use your social media skills to get people buzzing about a good cause. Contact someone within an organization you admire and ask if you can help develop their social media presence.
If you’re interested in a larger non-profit odds are they have hired someone to handle their social media. But you can still use your social media to make an impact by rallying friends to attend a fundraiser/volunteer event or by simply spreading awareness of a cause that’s special to you.
If you’re feeling really creative start your own challenge to raise money! Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It raised over $115 million for the A.LS. Association!
Help Heal the World
Participating in volunteer opportunities abroad can be an incredible way to help others while engaging in invaluable cultural exchange. Programs like Diverbo are looking for Native English speakers to converse with people in a host country who want to improve their command of English. If you are looking for a fully immersive hands-on volunteer experience you may consider checking out Operation Groundswell, a backpacking organization with the focus of sustainably giving back.
When searching for volunteer opportunities abroad make sure the organization you choose takes a holistic, grassroots approach to how they help local communities. Studies show that in many cases voluntourism can actually be more harmful than helpful to native communities. So while your experience abroad will be an adventure keep in mind that it is not a vacation.
Create your Own Opportunity!
From writing cards on your couch to teaching english halfway across the globe, there is a wide range of volunteer opportunities. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed start small with your volunteering endeavors and keep in mind that sometimes the best place to start doing good is right in your own backyard. Not satisfied with the old blankets the animals are lying on at the local shelter? Start a blanket drive! The beach you loved as a kid now covered in trash? Get a group of friends together, contact town administrators and coordinate a community clean up day.
Volunteering at the local level can have the greatest effect on your community and will likely have the most tangible results. See what speaks to you and get working because one of the best ways to help yourself is to help others.