Recently I was asked by a colleague of mine how to find the right kind of volunteer opportunity within her city (not Boston). She knew of the work I do with On Your Feet Project and is naturally an avid fan of our blog and thought I would be a good resource for her. At first I was not sure how to answer this because my experience in non-profits and volunteer organizations stems mostly from Boston.
Then I realized that I am a transplant here and I had to retrace my steps on how I went from knowing no one, even my roommates I met via craigslist, to now be considered the go to person for my friends and colleagues for volunteer opportunities and non-profit information.
If I can do it you can to! All it takes is a lot of research (Google is your friend), and a little guts. So here is my how to guide to get involved in your city.
1) Use National Websites. Start with a couple of websites to see what kind of volunteer opportunities are available in your city; http://www.volunteer-match.org/, http://www.idealist.org/, http://www.unitedway.com/ are good national resources that list volunteer opportunities which are geared towards your interests/time level of commitment within your city.
2) Attend a Cause-Related Event. A good portion of the people I have met in Boston have been met at attending various events put on by non-profits or social networks in the Boston area. A couple of good resources for finding events in your area that support causes your interested in are http://www.going.com/ or http://www.yelp.com/. Another great resource for finding non-profit events is your local newspaper. Specifically the newspapers online portion which is probably more likely to show more volunteer events & opportunities than in printed newspaper.
3) Research Social Networks in Your Area. Google is your friend in this one. Now not knowing what each city has to offer, try searching under various terms, "[your city] Volunteers", "Social Volunteering [Your City]", "Young Professional [Your City]". It has been my experience that many of the social networking organizations in Boston have a volunteer component to their organization. Once you find the right network for you, it's great because you meet people with similar interest to yours, and continue to build Social Capital in the city you live in. When you do find a social network you feel connected to, make sure to get on their e-mail list because they will help connect you to your city scene better than doing Google searches.
4) Move to Boston -Attend OYFP events. As if you didn't see this plug coming.
So these are some of the tips I have learned over my five year stint in Boston. I would love to hear your stories or your experience in getting involved within your city.
Photos Taken at OYFP Events.