As COVID-19 restrictions ease and physical gatherings return, volunteering is a great way to revitalize those aspects of life that have been lacking throughout the pandemic: meeting new people, physical activity, and engaging with the local community.
Studies have shown that when we volunteer and focus on others’ needs while strengthening our own social network we reduce our feelings of loneliness, anger, and depression—emotions which have been amplified by the pandemic at various times for many people. Charitable work can also benefit our physical health. A 2020 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that altruistic volunteers live longer than non-volunteers.
Further, volunteering is an excellent way to learn career transferable skills and build your resume, especially early in a person’s career when they may have little to no industry experience.
Most importantly though, volunteering helps communities that need assistance recovering from the pandemic. Measured by the economic benefit of volunteering, a 2018 study by the Conference Board of Canada found that, in 2017 alone, the charitable work that Canadians did would be worth the equivalent of nearly $56 billion of GDP (in 2018 dollars), or about 2.6 per cent of GDP. This sizeable, and free, contribution to society, alongside the health benefits garnered by volunteers, make volunteering an opportunity worth considering.
The steps below describe how to find the volunteer position that is right for you:
1) Decide which skills you want to develop
Are you looking to build new skills or hone existing abilities? Either route benefits you and your community. Your choice will dictate which organizations you consider and how rewarding you find those experiences; deciding now whether you want to develop existing skills, either from the workplace or personal hobbies, or dive into a new experience will shorten the list of opportunities that you consider later.
2) Find volunteer opportunities offering the skill development you desire
Depending on your choices in step 1, now think backwards from those skills you wish to exercise in a volunteer capacity and find organizations that are likely to have relevant opportunities. This can be the hardest part of the process because there are so many organizations, and many fail to advertise the volunteer positions formally. Google is a good start; so are sites like Volunteer Manitoba that contain a directory of local volunteer work. You could also ask local businesses or organizations with connections to the volunteer work you desire for suggestions. For example, if you were looking to volunteer with youth sports, contacting a sporting goods store or other associated organizations could direct you to finding local opportunities. Asking friends for suggestions on where to apply is another great strategy for gathering leads (and perhaps finding a volunteer partner).
3) Consider each mission statement of the organizations on your list
After you have a list, think about what each of these organizations does, who they help, and how. Everyone has a different reason for volunteering and finding one that inspires you will only make your experiences more meaningful. The volunteer at a personal care home might have a family member who relies on similar services. Someone volunteering at a museum might believe in the importance of preserving the past for future generations. Finding those organizations whose goals strongly align with your beliefs and values will be vital to your long-term commitment to the position.
4) Keep your schedule in mind
You will always have commitments beyond your volunteer role, be it work, family, or just time for yourself. It is crucial that you determine how each organization’s volunteer schedule will line up with your own. The less compatible your schedules are, the more you should consider choosing a different organization from the list. Finding the energy for volunteer work can be difficult and if scheduling is a nightmare, it will only be harder. On that note, do not over commit in your first month or two as that can lead to burnout. Focus on making small, steady contributions and increasing your time gradually. If you truly have a lot of spare time, consider sampling 2-3 organizations before making your final choice.
COVID-19 has limited or ended certain volunteer roles; while some continued throughout the pandemic, many more are returning as restrictions ease. As our communities recover from the hardships of the past 18 months in the post-pandemic world, the freely offered labor of volunteers will be instrumental in marching our communities past these challenging times. With this list you too can participate in your community’s fast recovery.
Pinnacle has found success in their partnerships with the following companies and recommends them to begin your search:
Broadway Neighborhood Center
Bear Clan Patrol Inc.
The Model School at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate
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