How to Find Your Ideal Volunteer Opportunity Right Online
These Matching Services Make It Easy to Volunteer
It has never been easier to volunteer, and it's becoming more popular than ever as people of all ages and abilities look for ways to improve their communities and support other causes close to their hearts.
If you're looking to make your own contribution, start with this guide to find volunteer opportunities online, and turn up an assortment of great causes with contact information.
Besides the online volunteer resources listed on this page, volunteer centers exist in many states and cities. Looking locally might turn up the largest list of volunteer opportunities right in your backyard. You can also visit the Points of Light website for a list of HandsOn Volunteer Action Centers. They are located everywhere.
Before you commit to a new volunteer gig, check out these tips for picking just the right volunteer spot and getting the most out of it. Volunteer experience is highly valued by employers too, so document your experience and add it to your resume and your social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
General Online Volunteer Matching Sites
Start by perusing the following list of sites to get a feel for the types of opportunities available. If you find yourself honing in on a particular cause, you can then research more specifically to turn up volunteer needs in that area. Try these first:
U.S. Government-Sponsored Volunteer Programs
These established government-sponsored programs offer many opportunities for volunteer work and travel, both domestic and international.
- Corporation for National and Community Service
- Serve.gov (Portal for the Corporation for National and Community Service and its campaign, 'United We Serve,' to get Americans to volunteer and engage in national service.)
- Peace Corps (Not just for recent college grads. The "new" Peace Corps welcomes all adults, including retirees and seniors. Also, there are short-term opportunities in addition to the traditional two-year commitment)
- AmeriCorps (A US-based version of the Peace Corps. There are several types such as State and Vista. Full-time placements pay a stipend)
- Senior Corps (Servicing seniors by seniors)
- Volunteer.gov/gov (Pitch in for America's Natural and Cultural Resources)
- CitizenCorps (Focus on emergencies like fire, flood, and hurricanes)
International Volunteer Opportunities
Many international volunteer opportunities require you to pay for the experience. Some people find this acceptable and a great way to travel. Find out why and how to combine volunteerism and travel.
Volunteer Opportunities for Students and Youth
Get your kids started early and help them gain valuable experience to broaden their personal horizons and enhance their college applications.
Volunteer Opportunities for Professionals and Executives
Put those valuable years of work experience to use by helping others in need of guidance for their small business or financial management.
Volunteer Opportunities for Older Adults and Retirees
Many of the volunteer programs on this page welcome older Americans. Here are a few specifically designed for that group.
Virtual and Micro-volunteering
Some of the organizations listed above provide ways to volunteer virtually through your mobile devices or computer. Many virtual volunteer opportunities are also "micro" in that they are tasks that you can do in just slivers of the time you have available.
Here are some sites with a focus on virtual volunteering or that have the ability to search for virtual opportunities.
- Catchafire has virtual opportunities for skilled volunteers.
- VolunteerMatch has a virtual volunteer list that is well stocked.
- Help from Home focuses on virtual, micro-volunteer actions.
- Virtual Volunteering Wiki was created by the authors of "The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook." It has definitions and other information.
Besides searching volunteer portals for ways to volunteer virtually, check out the numerous sites for people with specific interests. For instance:
- Amateur historians can collaborate with The Smithsonian to help make historical documents accessible.
- Birdwatchers can help track bird populations and migration patterns with eBird.
- Weekend astronomers can contribute to mapping the skies at Zooniverse.
- Virtual globetrotters can work with UN Volunteers online to do good around the world.
Special Volunteer Days and Weeks
Don't forget all the special opportunities during the year when volunteering is promoted. Here are just a few.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - 3rd week in January
- National Volunteer Week - 3rd week in April
- National Day of Service and Remembrance - September 11
- National Family Volunteer Day - Saturday before Thanksgiving
Regardless of the type of skillset you're willing to offer, there's a cause out there that wants your help.