If you’re retired or have a few extra hours in your schedule, an excellent way to fill some of your free time is to give back to your community or country through volunteering. Whether you spend a few hours helping with a local school or working with a national charity, you can help strengthen your neighborhood and the world through volunteer work.

There are many different causes you can lend your support and time to, and most, if not all, are certainly worthy and deserving of your help. How do you find the right cause for you? It’s easy to pin down some good volunteer opportunities near you if you answer a few questions!

What Kind of Volunteer Work Fits Your Passion?

First, determine what type of charity or non-profit you want to be involved with. What’s important to you? There are charities that help children, animals, the lesser fortunate, and individuals with mental disabilities or certain diseases, but the list doesn’t stop there! If you’re struggling to pick just one, start broad and work your way down.

For example, you can ask yourself a series of questions like this:

  • Do I want to work with humans or animals? (Let’s say you pick humans…)
  • Do I want to work with children or adults? (Let’s say you pick adults…)
  • What kind of adults do I want to work with? (Let’s say you want to work with adults with disabilities…)
  • Do I want to work with adults with mental or physical disabilities? (Let’s say you want to work with adults with mental disabilities…)

And there you go, you’ve narrowed down your interests significantly. Another way you can zero-in on specific types of causes is using websites, like VolunteerMatch.org, Volunteer.gov, or Catchafire.org, that list different categories of organizations and help you learn more about the specifics near you.

If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll probably be more motivated and enriched by your volunteering.

It’s important to find a cause that speaks to you because this will give you a stronger connection to the work you’re doing. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll probably be more motivated in your volunteering, increasing the likelihood that you’ll find the experience enriching and worthwhile. Don’t forget, as nice as your charitable efforts are, you should still find value in the work you’re doing. If you feel like your volunteering isn’t helping anything or is causing undue stress in your life, it may be worth looking at other opportunities.

Which Volunteer Organization Should You Work With?

Once you decide on the cause you’d like to support, it’s time to decide on the organization you’d like to work with. Each organization may have different beliefs, opportunities, pros and cons, all of which can affect how well it fits what you’re looking for. This makes researching the group or organization essential. During this process, don’t forget to consider the size and scope of the group you’d like to volunteer with!

The Advantages of Smaller, Local Groups

There are many reasons why may want to work with a smaller, local group compared to a larger, national one. For one, a local organization will often have a more direct effect on your community. Since their entire goal is focused on the area you live in, you can better see the fruits of your labor and benefit your city or state. Alternatively, the efforts of a larger group may benefit a different area.

A local volunteer group will most likely need your help more.

Another big reason to volunteer with a local group is that you have the power to effect more change from within it. A larger, national group probably has many employees or volunteers to help out, and local group often don’t. Simply put, they’ll most likely need your help more. Not only will this add a sense of value to the work you’re doing, you’ll also be helping a group that truly needs you. As an added bonus, with fewer volunteers, you may have the opportunity to get to know the smaller group, establish new friendships, and introduce new ways your group can support its cause!

Some examples of local groups that you could try include local schools, animal shelters, libraries, soup kitchens, or local chapters of larger organizations.

Working with Larger, National Groups

While they may not have as direct of a benefit to your local community, many larger, nationally focused groups also have worthwhile ventures to pursue. Often, these groups focus on larger issues, like poverty or mental health. So, by working with larger, national volunteer groups, you can help tackle larger issues facing the country and take pride in the fact you’re playing a role in doing something that benefits people all over America.

You may feel like you’re part of a larger movement and a community when you volunteer with a bigger organization.

At the same time, you may want to work with larger groups if you have a tighter schedule. They may be more flexible with your volunteering, since they tend to have a larger pool of volunteers to pull from. This means the time you’re able to give to them isn’t as essential as, say, the time you’re able to give a small animal shelter that only has three total volunteers. While you may not feel like you’re having as much of an impact in this kind of group compared to a smaller one, the lessened level of reliance can allow for you to have greater balance and less stress in your life.

One other benefit of volunteering with a bigger organization is that you may feel like you’re part of a larger movement and a community. When your organization appears in the news or you see a commercial on TV advertising the work they do, you may find that you enjoy having a special connection to them and many of your fellow citizens.

How Much Time and Effort Can You Dedicate to Volunteering?

You may have picked out the exact organization you want to work with, but before phoning them up and offering to help, you need to decide how much time and effort you’re willing and able to give. Consider asking yourself:

These are actually pretty vital questions to ask, because they can define the role and duties you’ll perform as you’re volunteering. If you’re able to volunteer each day, you may get more important or regular duties. If you can only volunteer a few days or one day a week, you may have more entry-level types of jobs.

Talk to your doctor before volunteering to know just what you’ll be able to physically handle safely.

It’s also important that you talk to your doctor prior to volunteering so you know just what you’ll be able to physically handle. Depending on the organization, you may be asked to lift, walk, or do certain physical activities that your doctor may prefer you not do. While we’re sure that the organization you want to help supports a worthwhile cause, it shouldn’t come at the risk of you hurting yourself. Understanding your time and health limits can ensure that the volunteering you do doesn’t have a negative impact on your life.

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Have a good volunteer organization you’d like to work for in mind? Great! Once you’ve started volunteering for a cause or charity, that doesn’t have to be the end of it. You certainly can spend time working for multiple organizations, especially if you support numerous causes that you want to promote and are willing and able to do so.

We’d also like to note you should continually evaluate your volunteering situation. If you find yourself not enjoying the work, or that your passion for the cause waning, there’s no shame in backing away or trying something different. It’s your time, so spend it how you want and on the causes that enrich your life. Luckily, throughout this article, you’ve learned it’s simple to find a charity or volunteer opportunity that fits your passion and situation!