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 Post subject: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:26 am 
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Tofu Pup

Joined: Thu Feb 07, 2013 8:13 pm
Posts: 8
I feel the need to give back but I'm probably the least successful person when finding some way to do so.
I tried volunteering at a local AIDS prevention org but the volunteer coordinator felt that my best opportunity would be to organize a fundraiser on my own- like hosting a party at my house- and then asking attendees to make a donation to the organization.. That's not exactly what I have in mind, I am not much of a fundraiser and it just felt like the volunteer coordinator either thought I wasn't a god fit for an actual volunteer position (they recruit people to be a support network, to drive people in treatment to medical appointments, to do outreach and advocacy work etc.. I asked about those things and she repeated I'd be great at hosting an event in my home to raise money and awareness so I gave up, feelings hurt, and left.
The next place I tried was a community free clinic- they were looking for a volunteer with experience doing something I've done before- I applied but never heard back- tried calling and was again just told to leave a message.
Now I'm kind of nervous to apply elsewhere, it seems like finding a way to volunteer is much more difficult than finding a job!
I assumed volunteers would be in need. Is it that I come off as a weirdo because I'm alone/not affiliated with another group? Should I emphasize that I'm a regular, gainfully employed person?


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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:32 am 
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Vegan Since Before There Were Vegetables
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aw! Sorry you got discouraged. The person at the AIDS org. sounds pretty uncool. Maybe they thought you looked rich and would have rich friends? I dunno, but that's a bummer! I'd try contacting more places! I've done a lot of volunteering/free interning and a lot of places just don't have enough stuff for volunteers to do, so they can't take many people. A lot of people want to volunteer for various reasons, so volunteers aren't always as in demand as you'd think.
I've enjoyed working at food pantries and soup kitchen type places before. Maybe contact a place like that and see if you can help out packing up and distributing groceries or serving food. I've found that to be pretty rewarding.

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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:45 am 
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ugh
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Do you have any friends or family who volunteer? It could be that some places don't want to spend time training newbies who may or may not be reliable, but it might help to have someone who could vouch for you, like a job referral.

Also, I'm not sure what kind of job you have, but lots of companies like to organize volunteering opportunities for their employees. If you have a human resources department, I recommend checking in with them.

Another option would be to check out Meetup's volunteer groups. They're just groups of people who volunteer for a variety of causes. http://volunteerism.meetup.com

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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:58 am 
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The Real Hamburger Helper

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I worked as a volunteer coordinator for a nonprofit for a while, and I think it's good to remember that volunteer coordinators and most nonprofit staff are generally hugely overworked and if they're not getting back to you it's probably not about you at all. With the AIDS prevention org, I wouldn't be surprised if the coordinator is under pressure to organize a certain number of house parties and just has enough volunteers for other roles. It can be pretty frustrating when people want to do everything but what you have the greatest need for. Not saying you're doing anything wrong or that you should host a house party when you don't want to, but if that is the organization's greatest need right now and they are trying to meet goals then they're probably going to talk to every potential volunteer about it. So basically, don't get discouraged. Sometimes volunteers aren't actually in need for certain things--some organizations are very popular to volunteer for. But I'm sure you can find a good fit if you keep looking.

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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 12:05 pm 
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Should Write a Goddam Book Already
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Of course, this all depends on what would be meaningful to you. It sounds like you're interested in doing healthcare related stuff? I would look into smaller, less funded groups, that are doing work that is in line with your goals & beliefs. For example in my city, we have a small clean-needle access program. They regularly do volunteer training and are always looking for volunteers. Because they are smaller and not rolling in cash, they rely a lot more on volunteers. Also, they're not a big-name, "glamourous" group, so you don't have droves of people trying to help.
Also, as a volunteer who has coordinated other volunteers for a very grassroots project, I would say be persistent if it's appropriate. A smaller group might not have the resources to work with new volunteers, so showing up when you say you will (without reminders), helping out with some of the boring or not fun work goes a long way.


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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 12:09 pm 
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Cranky
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Don't forget that it's a huge commitment to train and supervise volunteers. Even for organizations that are really struggling, the payoff may not be worth the time they put into it. When I worked at public libraries, we turned away a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, only some of which had anything to do with the individuals in question.

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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 12:30 pm 
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Tofu Pup

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I totally get all of what's been said. I don't have roots in the city I live in and part of my motivation to volunteer must be for the sake of community connection... So having someone vouch for me is tough. I do work in a medical/human service field, but I'm a government employee so they aren't big on promoting volunteer opportunities through HR .. I might try asking the EAP coordinator for leads, but like me she is also not from the area.
I am going to try at an animal shelter/SPCA near my work... I've been reluctant because of the heartache I know exists.. Not a good excuse but I'm sure I'm not alone in it.. Our life is filled with animals who've come from very unfortunate circumstances, it is a reality I deal with every day trying to meet the needs of the critters on our 'farm'.


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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 12:41 pm 
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Just Loathin' Around!
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You can also look at places that do open calls for help. I volunteered at an animal rescue that had regular volunteer introductory meetings every month that you had to attend in order to start. So you just registered online and then came to that first class to learn stuff, and from there you could get into the system and schedule a time to start working based on your interests.

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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 2:01 pm 
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You might want to check out Volunteer Match

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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 2:35 pm 
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The Real Hamburger Helper
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I work for local government (in the UK) and my employer has committed to supporting employees who want to volunteer. We actually get paid for one day's volunteering a year if we want to do it, and they also have some opportunities like clearing communal wasteland which they promote. Maybe you could suggest to your employers that they might like to support volunteering a bit more?

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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 6:02 pm 
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I think this is a major "just keep swimming" situation. It sucks that you've had shitty response two places thus far, but the more you look the more you are likely to find something. Just keep swimming.

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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:55 pm 
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Invented Vegan Meringue
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dropscone wrote:
I work for local government (in the UK) and my employer has committed to supporting employees who want to volunteer. We actually get paid for one day's volunteering a year if we want to do it, and they also have some opportunities like clearing communal wasteland which they promote. Maybe you could suggest to your employers that they might like to support volunteering a bit more?


Yeah, I work for the Australian Government and we get like five paid volunteer days per year. As well as my full-time job there, I have two volunteer positions- one in the office of an international development NGO on Friday mornings, and the other is with a women's development NGO which I do in my own time, from home. My work is totally supportive, and when my paid volunteer leave runs out I'm able to take the Friday mornings off as flex time (ie. I work an extra couple of hours during the week to make up for it). I find that the exposure to other organisations has broadened my perspective and made me better at my own job- so it's in their interest to support it!

Both of the positions I'm in required experience and a full interview process, and that's going to be the case for a lot of organisations looking for an extended commitment. But like anything, sometimes you need to do stuff that's not ideal to work your way up there. Both of the organisations I volunteer with often have a volunteer register where they'll call on people to do stuff like run booths at events, hand out flyers and collect donations. It's nothing too exciting, but it shows that you're interested in and committed to that organisation.

Alternatively, there are some positions that will include a lot of training. I started the application process for some volunteer work with a suicide hotline late last year, but found that the training was too intense to fit in my schedule at this point in time. Those kinds of positions obviously aren't for everyone, and they take a lot more than just theoretical training to be able to deal with it, but it's an idea.

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 Post subject: Re: What am I doing with my life?!? How to volunteer?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 9:00 pm 
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I don't know where you live, but maybe there's a community site where there's a list of places looking for volunteers? We even have a whole Volunteer Fair which is actually really fun and a great way to talk to people in person.

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