3 Steps to Find Your Next Volunteer Opportunity
Do you wish you had more work experience in your chosen field? Are you looking for better ways to network? Have you considered volunteering?
Volunteering with a non-profit, charity or grassroots organization is a fantastic way to boost your resume, nurture your network, build your portfolio or even road-test a career path to see if it’s a good fit for your strengths and values.
Do good and make good, by following these 3 steps to find your next volunteer opportunity.
- Get Clear on What You Want
If you are going to freely give your time to an organization, it’s important that you care about their mission and pick a role that fits your schedule and skills.
Start with brainstorming issues, communities, interests and industries that are important to you. This will help you look for organizations that are a good match. If you’re keen to use volunteering as a stepping stone to paid work, think strategically about which organizations pose good opportunities to network with others in your industry (e.g. many top professionals serve on non-profit Boards) and add professional experience to your resume (yes, Canadian hiring managers do value relevant volunteer experience!).
Volunteer roles can last anywhere from a few hours during an event to a long-term commitment over many years. Be realistic about how much time you can commit before you start searching and applying.
Great with Canva? Handy with a budget? Make a list of your skills to help you identify specific volunteer roles and responsibilities you’d like to target.
2. Search For Opportunities
Now, it’s time to see what’s out there and look for roles that align with your interests, schedule, and skills:
Job Boards: There are many Pan-Canadian job boards where you can browse current volunteer roles such as Volunteer Canada, Charity Village, Good Work, Volunteer Connector, Board Ready Women, as well as provincial ones such as Volunteer BC, and city-wide sites like Volunteer Toronto. You can even look close to home – check out local interest groups that serve your neighbourhood or on-campus student groups and activities (see YUEngageNow and Facebook Group).
Organization Websites & Social Media: Follow non-profits in your fields of interest on social media, as most call outs for event support, Board Member positions or seasonal volunteer roles are shared on their accounts. Some organization websites have a dedicated page for volunteer applications.
Cold Emailing: Of course, you don’t have to wait for an organization to post an opportunity – you can approach them! Showcase your initiative and enthusiasm by reaching out to non-profit organizations you admire and offer your help.
First, make a shortlist of organizations you’d love to volunteer with. If you aren’t sure where to look, try: Googling keywords related to your interests and location; reviewing Charity Intelligence’s list of non-profits; and asking for recommendations from friends or online communities related to your fields of interest (e.g., Reddit, Facebook Groups, etc.).
Then, craft a tailored, brief, enthusiastic cold email about why you admire their work, how your values align with their mission, what you are looking for in terms of a volunteer role and what skills you have to offer. Don’t be afraid to follow-up with a polite, concise ‘nudge’ email if you don’t hear back in 7-10 days.
3. Ready Your Resume
When sending cold emails or applying to postings online, you’ll likely want to attach a recent resume. It’s always wise to tailor your resume to every role you are applying to, regardless of whether it’s a volunteer or paid position. For details on how to make your resume stand out from the crowd, check out our Career Portal resources and email us to request a resume review.
Once you secure your next volunteer role, maximize this opportunity by networking with your new colleagues and take note of the skills and responsibilities you are mastering to add to your resume and LinkedIn profile. You can even ask your volunteer supervisor for a LinkedIn recommendation, testimonial for your portfolio or a reference to aid in your next job search.
Volunteering can be a real win-win: help non-profits you care about and build a career you love. Happy searching!
By Emma Hartley, Alumni Liaison Specialist Career Services