When you think about volunteering, what immediately comes to mind? You probably imagine building a Habitat for Humanity house or working at a soup kitchen. And while these examples are powerful, they’re just the beginning.
There are so many ways to get involved, and the sheer magnitude of options makes it easier than ever to find the right fit for you. Discovering a volunteer opportunity that matches not only your passion, but your desired level of commitment, means you’re more likely to stick with it over time.
From minimal contributions to skill-based volunteering, here are some ways to give back to your community:
Micro-volunteering is a new trend that allows you to take a few dollars or minutes, and transform them into a positive experience for others.
Ask for birthday or celebration donations | $5.00 +
Is your birthday or wedding coming up? Consider asking your friends and family to donate to a non-profit that’s close to your heart instead of giving gifts. Facebook even has donation-based birthday events, so you can solicit your network to help you give back.
Start a monthly sponsorship | $5.00 +
Most community organizations really want recurring donations—it helps them project their incoming resources so they can allocate to the community accordingly.
Give out gift cards | $5.00 +
Every week, a friend of mine picks up a few $5 gift cards at affordable coffee shops for homeless people in her neighborhood. These gifts mean her neighbors can grab a meal and shelter for a few hours in bad weather.
Help a classroom | $5.00 +
The website Donors Choose makes it easier than ever to support a classroom with much needed supplies like books, easels, and sports gear.
Support a friend | 5 minutes +
Do you have a friend going through a hard time? Give them a leg up with a kind word or text message—these small gestures add up to a real sense of support.
Donate household items and clothing | 10 minutes +
Sometimes, we want to give back, but we can’t commit consistently. One-off experiences are a great way to work within a limited time frame.
Walk or run at an event | 1 hour +
You’ve probably seen local walks, runs and get-togethers to support the community. Consider participating—you can raise money for the cause, and have a fun experience at the same time.
Sign up for single volunteer shifts | 1 hour +
Organizations usually need all the hands they can get. Pass out food, sort donations, or help answer phones for a local non-profit.
Go to a local cleanup | 3 hours +
Check-in with a local environmental organization to help them clean your closest nature preserve, park, or beach. The apparel company United by Blue sponsors these types of cleanups around the country.
Help out at an alumni event | 3 hours +
Your high school or college probably relies on volunteers to orchestrate fundraising events. Next time they host an event in your area, offer to help with anything from writing name tags to creating the playlist.
If you want to consistently contribute, you can take on one of these recurring commitments and build the activity into your routine.
Mentor virtually | 1 hour per week +
Do you love mentoring? Think about volunteering as a career or student mentor virtually through organizations like I Could Be, Career Resource Center and Upwardly Global.
Teach English | 1 hour per week +
Learning English can turn someone’s job prospects around. If you’re a native speaker, consider volunteering as a teacher at your local community center.
Provide skilled pro-bono work | 1 hour per week +
Your skill set isn’t just an asset for your own company—it can give a non-profit a boost, too. Taproot Foundation is a great resource for connecting with non-profits.
Volunteer at an animal shelter | 2 hours per week +
From socializing kittens to taking dogs for walks, volunteering at a shelter can bring as much joy to you as it does to the animals.
Offer crisis support | 2 hours per week +
Once you are trained to counsel people in crisis via text or a hotline, you can spend as little as 15 minutes a day making a difference for individuals who need it most. And, you can do it from home.
Join a non-profit board | 2 hours per week +
There are a lot of ways to gain leadership experience, and joining a non-profit board is one of them. Be aware that some organizations require a substantial time or finacial commitment, so research in advance.
Sometimes, especially during a big life change, people feel like they want to give more. These are the times to go all in on something you care about.
Foster an animal | 10 hours a week +
Animal shelters rely on generous volunteers to act as “foster” parents to their animals. By taking in an animal, you help save a life while making room for another at the shelter.
Take on an intensive work project | 10 hours a week +
Research says the average employee uses only half their vacation time. Instead of letting those days disappear, take a volunteer vacation. With Bridges to Community, for example, you can help build a home in Ecuador or Nicaragua.
Assist with disaster relief | Full-time
It’s easy to feel defeated when listening to the news, but there’s a lot you can do to help people in need around the world. Consider assisting the American Red Cross with a post-disaster relief initiative full-time for a few months.
Giving back isn’t a one-size-fits-all adventure. Explore the options that resonate with you and commit to one of the activities above. From there, you can scale up without committing all of your free time in one go.
This article is provided for informational purposes only. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of City National Bank.