Making That Volunteer Commitment Work for You


written by Ellen Freudenheim, MPH

Here’s a scenario you’ll want to avoid: You take the time to volunteer at a worthy organization, perhaps because your spouse or friend has brought you along—only to quit in frustration or boredom a few months later.

While there’s no law that says you have to stick with one volunteer organization for years on end, it’s nice to feel that your work is meaningful, and the experience sufficiently pleasant that you want to continue.

So, how do you find the volunteer work you want-and not get stuck stuffing envelopes?

Here’s a checklist of things to help you take control of the situation and make an educated choice about where to spend your time volunteering for a good cause.

1. My Time Availability
____ I’d like to do volunteer work on a regular weekly basis for
____ 1-2 hours ____ 3-5 hours ____ 6-10 hours ____ more
____ I’d like to volunteer, but just occasionally, such as around the holidays
____ I’d like to volunteer for a specific, time-limited project
____ I’m flexible
2. My Interests
The areas I’m interested in working in are
I’ve always wanted to work in an environment where
I’d like to work in an organization that deals with
____ community service
____ education
____ social change/social and economic justice/politics
____ religious community
____ children
____ animals
____ environment
____ politics
other (write in): ____________________________________
3. The Work Itself
____ I want to use my work skills (e.g., editing, bookkeeping)
____ I’d like to do something new
Here’s a list of tasks I can perform for a nonprofit organization
4. Location
The ideal volunteer job for me would be located
____ in my home
____ within walking distance of home
____ within _____ miles driving distance of home
____ outside my community
(such as Habitat for Humanity or an international program)
other: ________________________________________
5. Working Environment
I’d like to help out
____ in an office
____ in an institution (library, hospital, museum, national park, etc.)
____ outdoors
I’d prefer to work in a
____ big organization
____ small organization
____ one-on-one
____ with a group
____ alone
6. Training (e.g., working with children, infirm people, computers, plants, etc.)
____ I’d like on-the-job training (in_____________________)
____ I’m willing to get training on my own time (in_________________)
7. Building Your Own Resume
Is there something you’d like to get out of volunteering (e.g., attend concerts or plays for free, do some gardening in a public space, or gain skills, such as Web site design)? List here: