Choosing a volunteer opportunity is not very different than selecting a job posting to apply for.  But while the same factors are important, you will probably weigh these factors differently depending on what you want to get out of the volunteer experience.

Know what you want out of volunteering.  Volunteers benefit from volunteering in many different ways, and knowing what you want out of the volunteer experience will help guide you to a great opportunity that works well for both you and the cause you want to support.

  • One of the greatest benefits of volunteering is keeping a positive and upbeat attitude during an extended job search.  It is critical that you personally are committed to the particular cause that your volunteer work will support.  You’ll find yourself a lot more motivated and upbeat when you are volunteering with Habitat for Humanity if you are convinced that families deserve affordable housing.
  • Volunteering can be regular or episodic.  If you are committed to opera and want a short term commitment with a big impact, you might choose to participate with CBC Radio’s  “Do Crew” supporting an opera event.  If you are passionate about hockey and find yourself flailing around with the sudden lack of structure you might be interested in getting involved in supporting your local recreational hockey team.
  • Volunteering can build skills and keep skills sharp.  If you are an accountant who has been thinking about honing your skills for smaller organizations you may find that a non-profit will give you an opportunity as Board Treasure or as a volunteer.  Leadership skills, fundraising, change management, event development and legal skills are all areas where non-profits often need help.
  • Volunteering is an easy and effective way to build your network.  So if this is your goal, look for opportunities that will put you in touch with people who are employed in many different fields.  Participating in a Habitat for Humanity Build as an individual or participating on a Non-Profit Board of Directors builds strong ties to new connections.

Know what the organization wants from volunteers.  These are remarkably similar to any employer:  Attend training if offered; arrive on time and willing to do what’s needed; bring your skills, energy and a great attitude, follow through on your commitments on time.

Seek Volunteer Opportunities that fit.  Once you know how you want to make a contribution search the net for volunteer opportunities that are a good fit.  Propellus has the largest list of volunteer jobs in Calgary with usually just under 200 pages of listings.  Kijiji and Indeed also have a few volunteer listings.  You can find interesting and diverse one time opportunities with the  “Do Crew” that support a wide variety of social, sports and arts events.  And of course, networking with people you know who are already involved, searching for the types of organizations that creatively work on a cause you think is important, and seeking out programs that are exciting to you is probably the way to find the very best volunteer job fit.