Nonprofits are always looking for volunteers—from food pantries to mentors or web designers—but uncommitted or unreliable volunteering can hurt an organization more than the free labor can help. In a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service, one in three volunteers who give their time in one year, do not give their time the next.
To curb turnover and make the most of a volunteer opportunity, here are some considerations to take into account when looking for volunteer work.
What’s Your Level of Commitment?
From single-day projects to several year engagements, there are volunteer opportunities for every commitment level. Volunteer training or orientation often takes time from paid nonprofit employees, so high turnover rates cost organizations more than just a loss of labor.
When thinking about where to do volunteer work, keep in mind who you will be working with. A single-day community park or school renovation project takes less commitment than mentoring youth.
For example, students at George Washington Carver Elementary School, a participating school in the United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Wraparound strategy, want to build a relationship with volunteers.
“It’s relationship building that shows there are people in the community cheering them on,” said site coordinator Tiffany Allen. “Every time I introduce someone, [the students’] question is always ‘When are they coming back?’ They’re really interested and appreciate when people can come back.”
Are You Passionate About the Cause?
Donating your time to an organization in line with your interests and passions can increase commitment. Research local organizations involved with causes you’re interested in and find the ones that are the most successful.
Keep your professional skills in mind as well. For example, if you’re an accountant or good with numbers, Enterprise Community Partners could use your skills as a tax preparer for filers qualified for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
What Type of Work Fits You?
You’ve evaluated your commitment and found a cause you’re interested in. Now, it’s time to find volunteer work that matches your skill set and personality.
If you like kids, you could perform volunteer work at a school or community center. If you’re not as much of a people person, look at beautification projects like United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Hometown Huddle at local schools.
Whatever your interests or time frame, United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Get Connected site can help connect you with volunteer opportunities and track your hours.