Your Volunteer Journey: Getting Started

“Giving from Your Heart” – Dr. Bob Rosenberg and Guy Lampard

The Volunteer Journey Begins… 

In January of 2002, Kathleen Murray began a remarkable journey across the country to volunteer for a month at a time at over a dozen organizations in various states. Her goal was to work for causes she deeply cared about, such as children’s issues, poverty, and aging. At the same time, this work provided her a podium from which to raise awareness of the importance for more volunteerism nationally.

Kathleen provided some practical advice for those new to volunteering.   “Firstly, what really is most important is the act of getting involved. People are transformed by showing up to help others. It matters less how much time one can give than the fact that there is a commitment made. Without any hesitation or doubt in my mind, I can say that kindness is contagious. Before making a major commitment of your time to a nonprofit organization, do your research. You do the research when you buy a car. Here, you’re putting your time out there, and that’s at least as important as a car….. ”

Kathleen feels that helping others gives one so much in return.

“I have fallen in love with my life. To be able to live with purpose is a gift that far exceeds any expectation I might ever have had. My only hope is that I will be able to give back just a tenth of what I have received. ”

If someone were to approach you about volunteering, and told you that you could choose your level of commitment and work for a cause that was close to your heart, you would probably answer, “When do I start?” The following are a few basic questions to help you on your way; a map of sorts as you begin your journey into volunteerism.  

How Can I Serve Best

1. What do I have a passion for?

2. How much time can I realistically commit at this point in my life?

3. Do I want a short-term, long-term or a one-time assignment?

4.  Do I want to work alone or with a group?

5. What skills do I have to contribute?

6. What do I enjoy doing?

7. After “giving back, ” what are the other reasons I have for volunteering?

  • to meet new people
  • to develop job or personal skills
  • to occupy free time
  • to travel
  • to network
  • to build my resume
  • to do something rewarding with family/friends
  • to get to know the community better
  • to meet a potential dating partner or spouse
  • to obtain a school or job requirement
  • to achieve a personal goal
  • to be a good example to others

8. What type of volunteer job do I want?

  • hands-on tasks
  • board of directors position
  • virtual volunteering
  • administrative tasks
  • skills-based work
  • serve people in need directly
  • serve behind the scenes
  • help address community problems
  • work with national or international issues

9. Who/What do I want to focus on?

  • youth
  • elderly
  • disabled
  • disadvantaged
  • immigrants
  • military servicemen and women
  • animals
  • environment

10. How will my service efforts benefit myself and others around me?

Some feel that volunteering is just something else they need/have to add to their long-list of to-dos. Please be encouraged and know that whether you are scheduling time at a nonprofit agency or simply holding the door open for someone at the grocery store, you are serving. Service does not need to be a complicated process and can easily be incorporated into your daily life through the small and simple things consciously done for others.  Whatever the scope of your capacity to give, take heart that no matter how big or small the task you choose to accomplish,  much good can be brought about in our communities as long as we work together.

Mother Teresa said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”  If we can focus on this simple statement and work daily to be a little better for those around us, we have positioned ourselves to collectively succeed!

Best of luck on your volunteer journey!

Elizabeth Leyva
The Volunteer Center