I’d really recommend doing a bit of self-evaluation and research to find a volunteer opportunity that personally fits for you. Because what motivates and what logistically works for someone isn’t always going to work for you 🙂

I’d recommend thinking about it in the following way.

Why do you want to volunteer at all?

Is it purely to give back, or to meet people, or to learn, or to network professionally, or spend time outdoors, or to build your resume? All of these are super valid reasons, but keep your motivation in mind when you’re looking at opportunities.

What really gets you fired up?

What do you deeply care about? And/or, what are you more interested in learning about?

Feel free to be self-centered here – because if you find a volunteer opportunity that you don’t actually care about, you’re going to waste your time AND the organizations time.

What time commitment can you make?

Be realistic, and conservative.

It’s way more helpful to have a consistent volunteer once a month than a weekly volunteer who flakes 30% of the time. Think about how much time, and when – will weeknights leave you feeling totally drained? Will you be too hungover for a Saturday morning shift? (Been there!)

Where can you volunteer, and where do you want to volunteer?

If those places don’t overlap, how are you going to make it work? Would you be open to volunteering remotely?

Use Google <aps to calculate the subway commute between your office/volunteer place/home at the actual time you’d be volunteering, thinking about weekend and nighttime trackwork.

If it’s going to take you an hour to get home after a volunteer shift, is that sustainable?

What skills can you offer?

Think both hard and soft skills (e.g. detail-oriented, confident around people, able to wrangle a crowd, good with kids, patient).

Are you willing to do the important ‘grunt work’ that keeps nonprofits functioning (data entry, ladling soup, packing boxes) or do you want a ‘professional’ role that you can add to your resume?

Again, be realistic. No one wants a resentful volunteer. Be sure you understand WHY a particular role is important to the organization.

Volunteer orientations and onboarding processes take up a lot of time and energy at nonprofits, especially small organizations. By doing your part and thinking about all of this ahead of time (rather than jumping into something that doesn’t work and then needing to leave after a short time), you’re saving that nonprofit money that can be better spent on providing their much-needed community services. Woo!

When you’re ready to start looking, I can also recommend New York Cares (great for one-off opportunities) and Volunteer Match as good starting points.

You could also just Google “(Thing I care about) + (volunteer) + (my neighborhood)” and see what shows up!