How to Find Your Best Fit Volunteer Opportunity During COVID
In the wake of the pandemic, many organizations have been required to suspend or limit the opportunities they would normally provide to student volunteers. This can be a problem for students who are feeling stuck at home and want to reignite their sense of purpose and enhance their college applications. Here are some of the ways that, with a little research and creativity, you can find the opportunity that's just right for you.
Match Your Cause with Your Skillset
The best volunteer gig matches your passions with your skills. First, make a list of the causes nearest and dearest to your heart: mental health, equal access to education, environmental protection, voting rights, and so on! Next, look at what type of volunteers your top choices are looking for. Doing work you have experience with, like fundraising or event planning, will likely allow you to make more of an impact, get more experience and be happier than if you just sign up as a general assistant (although that's a great way to find out where your interests lie!). Finally, we recommend looking for short-term projects with organizations, as this will allow you to check out the work environment and internal structure. Once you've found your perfect match, you can fully commit to one.
Decide on a Work Environment
The pandemic has upended a lot of industries, and volunteer work is no exception. Most organizations, whether local or national, will have online opportunities. Some might have in-person projects or offerings as well, but if you're considering anything in-person, make sure to check that the appropriate COVID precautions are in place and that you discuss it with your parents prior to starting. The social and physical conditions in which you volunteer make a huge impact on your experience, so learn what environment will keep you motivated and excited to help while still following safety guidelines.
Do Your Research
There are so many nonprofits available that it can be hard to figure out which ones are hiring students. A great place to start your research for online volunteer work is:
- DoSomething.org — A digital platform to empower young people to enact social change and solve real world problems. They have tons of campaigns to inspire you!
- Zooniverse — A digital platform that allows you to volunteer your time on a variety of research projects. You can filter available work by discipline to help you find the opportunities that appeal most to you.
- Local opportunities — School networks or community circles (like churches) often have postings.
- Community spaces — Food banks, nursing homes, parks and other community spaces frequently seek out volunteers for special projects or around holiday seasons.
It's also important to research any potential organization to ensure that you can volunteer responsibly. Make sure they provide a breakdown of any program costs, offer proper volunteer training, have statistics that show volunteering has improved a project, and that appropriate locals or experts are involved. For additional input about any volunteer opportunity, read any feedback or reviews that you can find and contact former volunteers to ask about their experiences.
Set Your Boundaries
Giving back to the community is a vital and rewarding feeling, but make sure you don't neglect yourself. For that reason, it's a good idea to establish some boundaries before you get started. For instance, you might opt out of any in-person work until you feel more comfortable with public gatherings. Alternatively, you might only volunteer for a few hours a week at first, adding more as your workload allows. You don't want to burn out or feel overwhelmed, so stay in close communication with your volunteer coordinator and keep them informed about your experience.
There are a host of volunteer opportunities these days. As long as you reflect on your passions and interests and do your research, you'll be sure to find an experience that will be both fulfilling and safe. For more advice on tackling the college admissions process during COVID, check out our book, College Admissions During COVID and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
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