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Medically reviewed by: Lavisha Pelaez, MPH

Why Volunteer?

Volunteering can be powerful. You can change lives and make an impact on your own.

When you volunteer, you:

  • Expand your mind. You learn new skills — like how to be a team player and set goals. You can discover what you're good at and get career ideas for the future. When you volunteer, people rely on you, so you learn how to be responsible. Working on a volunteer project often brings together people of different backgrounds and abilities. You might make new friends with people who share common interests and values. Or you may meet adults who become good mentors.
  • Feel good. You get to see how you can change things for the better. You can feel proud of your contribution. Volunteering can keep you focused on doing something meaningful, especially if you have a lot on your mind. And you won’t be bored!
  • Build your experience. Volunteering looks great on a college or job application. You show others (and yourself!) that you believe in a cause, are reliable, and can show up on time. You’ll also demonstrate your commitment to helping make the world better.

How Can I Volunteer?

There are so many places that need volunteers. And they need help with a wide variety of tasks. You’ll have lots of opportunities to find a good fit.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Help kids learn and grow. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister, camp counselor, or volunteer for an after-school program. Helping at a Special Olympics event can be rewarding if you want to spend time with kids who have special needs.
  • Give back over the holidays. Serve dinner to the homeless, volunteer at your local food bank, or distribute toys to kids. Your church, temple, mosque, or other place of worship may welcome your offer to help.
  • Play with pets at a local animal shelter. Most shelters depend on volunteers to keep the cats and dogs happy and well exercised. (And when you're walking rescued dogs, you get a workout too.)
  • Volunteer for a political campaign. Interested in politics? Find out how things work on the inside. Even if you can't vote, you can still work to get your candidate elected — whether it's the president of the United States or your town mayor.
  • Help the environment. Join a conservation group and assist with river preservation. Take part in a local park cleanup day. You might even be able to help out in a park office.
  • Support a health-related cause. Lots of us are close to people who have a health problem, like cancer or diabetes. It can feel good to give your time to a charity that raises money for research, delivers meals, or helps people who are ill.

Some volunteers like to combine their passions. For example, if you love kids and are great at arts and crafts, you could lead an art project for young patients at your local hospital.

How Long Is a Volunteer Commitment?

Some charities or nonprofits prefer you commit to a set amount of time every week or two. If that won’t fit your schedule, find an organization that hosts a day-long project like a walkathon, bike ride, or cleanup day. Or if you have a bigger block of time to give, you might spend a week, month, or even a whole summer doing an internship. It’s a great way to immerse yourself. You can see progress and results. It’s also a unique way to build friendships with other volunteers.

How Do I Get Started Volunteering?

After you decide what you want to do and when you’re available, it's time to take action. Search online or call a local organization to see if they need volunteers. Ask friends or relatives for ideas. School staff or your local librarian can be resources too.

Be ready to answer some questions, like:

  • Why do you want to volunteer here?
  • When are you available?

It’s a good idea to have a couple of your own questions ready too. You might ask:

  • What will be expected of me if I volunteer here?
  • What kind of training do you provide?
  • Can I observe some volunteers in action to see what the work is like?

After you get stared volunteering, you can decide if it is the right fit. Some people find their best fit right away and stick with it for years or even a lifetime. Others try a few different things before finding what they love to do. And some people choose to mix it up by doing different kinds of volunteer projects each year.

No matter what you decide, you may find volunteering to be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Medically reviewed by: Lavisha Pelaez, MPH
Date reviewed: April 2022