Community Resources: Getting Involved
September 10, 2021
Many youth find getting involved in local volunteer opportunities to be fulfilling. In addition to being beneficial to local community members and those in need, volunteer opportunities provided by many nonprofit organizations present volunteers with opportunities for personal growth. The benefits of volunteering include, but are not limited to: confidence/self-esteem building, new social and professional connections, exploration and discovery of new areas of interest, and resume building (Gabe, n.d.).
Volunteering presents people the opportunity to make differences in the communities they live in and this is typically one of the main motivating factors for people getting involved in volunteer opportunities. However, complications such as lack of time, lack of resource, and not knowing where to start can make some youth hesitant about getting involved. But even if you are unable to devote substantial time towards volunteering, it is still possible to have an impact by promoting volunteer opportunities. One way to increase your impact, even with limited availability, is to volunteer as a team. By encouraging family & friends to join, you can make the volunteer experience fun and impactful for everyone involved. Some ideas for volunteering as a group are listed here.
It is important to understand that not all volunteer activities are the same. The level and duration of involvement are important factors that can determine whether or not a volunteer is able to get necessary exposure through their volunteer work or whether or not they achieve the goal they set for themselves when they began the volunteer work. Therefore, consistency is a key part of volunteering. Helping individuals or communities with great needs or making a significant difference at a particular nonprofit organization may require volunteers to contribute consistently over a period of time. Consistency is important because the success of many nonprofit organizations is highly dependent on the level of contribution from their volunteers. Nonprofit organizations won’t be able to make a difference in the communities they serve without constant support from volunteers.
Youth volunteers are most likely to benefit from long term and consistent volunteer involvement. There are several reasons why long term and consistent volunteer involvement is recommended : 1) consistency shows a genuine interest in being a volunteer, 2) It strengthens relationships with other volunteers and organizations, and 3) It allows volunteers to develop skills necessary for professional development through repeated and long term exposure (Bell, 2014). The personal benefits of long-term volunteering can’t be ignored either. According to one particular study, “it was found that long-term volunteers had significantly higher overall psychological well being and higher scores on three out of the four subscales of psychological well-being, namely, self-acceptance, sense of mastery and competency and sense of engagement and growth as compared to the short-term volunteers” (Elias et al., 2016, p. 12).
Nonprofit organizations such as volunteermatch.org and idealist.org make it easier to find volunteer opportunities online. The process of finding various local volunteer opportunities through these websites is very straightforward. Initially, interested users are required to create an account to access websites. After signing up, all it takes is the user typing their zip code and inputting keywords that match their interests. Website membership is typically offered free of charge, however, user eligibility requirements may differ based on the nonprofit organization. For example, idealist.org has age requirements as indicated here. In comparison, volunteermatch.org doesn’t have any age specific requirements for its users. Although it has age specific recommendations as indicated here. Check an organization’s requirements to see if you’re each other's fit. Lastly, there are also other organizations and volunteer opportunities around the country that are worth considering as included in this link.
American Association of Retired Persons. (n.d.). Volunteer with friends. AARP. https://createthegood.aarp.org/volunteer-ideas/include-family-friends.html.
Elias, J., Sudhir, P., & Mehrotra, S. (2016). Long-Term Engagement in Formal Volunteering and Well-Being: An Exploratory Indian Study. Behavioral Sciences, 6(4), 20. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs6040020
Gabe, E. (n.d.). 4 Reasons Every Teen Should Volunteer. VolunteerMatch Blog. https://blogs.volunteermatch.org/4-reasons-every-teen-should-volunteer.
Bell, P. (2014, September 15). Consistency: The Knot that Ties Everything Together: LeaderTreks Youth Ministry Blog. LeaderTreks Youth Ministry. https://www.leadertreks.org/consistency-knot-ties-everything-together/.