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Volunteering: Choosing the Right Fit for You

Updated on November 16, 2012

Search for the charity that best fits you and is the most excellent organization to be associated with.


Choosing the right charity to volunteer with is as important as choosing the right career path for your life. You volunteer to help others, but if you are not being fulfilled by the experience your interest will wane, and you will not stay with the organization for long. Before committing to an organization, write down a list of three causes you are interested in. Allow yourself time to consider each charity and what it provides to the people it serves. Once you decide which cause you are most passionate about, you can start seeking organizations close to you that provide the service.

Here, are a few things to consider when choosing a nonprofit to work with:

1. Is this cause represented by an organization in my community? Gas prices today are forcing people to cut back on driving, even when it comes to volunteering. If the organization you are considering is out of town or several miles from where you live, you will end up not giving much time to the cause. Plus you do not want volunteering to cause a financial hardship by spending too much on gas.

2. Are there multiple organizations that serve the cause you are most interested in? If this is the case, visit each site and volunteer for one day or at an event to decide which nonprofit better aligns with your work ethic, values and beliefs. A strong nonprofit will be totally transparent and will welcome someone “checking them out.” If they do not, move on. A nonprofit, that is not totally transparent is not an organization you want to associate with.

3. Always inquire how an organization recognizes its donors and volunteers. Does the staff turn around a letter of recognition within 48 hours of a donation? Are thank you notes to volunteers a standard after each event? Is there a yearly recognition for all volunteers and donors? A nonprofit that does not take time to thank their donors and volunteers is not an organization worth giving time to. A nonprofit is only as strong as its donors and volunteers; saying thank you should be a top priority.

4. How are employees of the nonprofit treated by management? As you give your one day of volunteering before making your final decision, pay attention to how the organization’s leadership manage employees. Are the employees treated with respect and valued for their education, experience and professional character? Or does the boss rule the work place with an out of date management style that demean and belittle the accomplishments of qualified staff? How qualified are the staff and its leadership? Experience and education of the staff should be considered when aligning with an organization. You want to be associated with competent people leading the cause you are supporting.

5. Is the organization fiscally sound? Nonprofits, by law, should be transparent. Especially those receiving state or federal funds. Nonprofits are required to provide the income tax form 990 to anyone upon requests. I suggest you do this to make sure the organization is fiscally responsible and is implementing the industry standard of 80/20-which means 80 percent of donations should go directly to the services provided, and 20 percent goes to operation costs.

6. You need to assess your abilities and interests and match the volunteer work accordingly. There are many different type of volunteer work to be preformed from working in community gardens, reading to children at school, staffing a fundraising table at the mall during the holiday; the opportunities are endless. You have to decide what you are able to do physically, mentally and with time constraints. You may not be able to move tables, but you can help with ticket sales. You may want to decorate instead of handling money transactions. After choosing the right organization, choosing the right work is the key to longevity in volunteering.

The guideline provided may seem a bit extensive for just a few hours of volunteering per week or month, but consider that once people associate your name with an organization, it is linked forever. Taking the time to research the best possible nonprofit fit for you is well worth the time and effort. You want to be associated with the most efficient, most professional organization possible and in return you will find fulfillment through the work you perform.

About the Author

Catherine Dean is a freelance writer, gardener, quilter, and blogger. Her professional background includes nonprofit program development, grant writing, and volunteer management. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from Georgia College & State University.

Her blog, Sowing A Simple Harvest, chronicles a modern couple trying to live a simplistic, sustainable life. To explore Catherine's professional credentials, visit her website. She can also be followed on Twitter.


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    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 5 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      How great. Yes, you have to fit into the volunteer position to stick with it long term. Thanks for commenting.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 5 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Fantastic hub! I'm a long time volunteer at a local botanic garden. I stumbled on it when I took a class there. Over the years, I've seen volunteers come and go for a lot of the reasons you outlined above. I love what I do, but it's not for everyone.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you so much Kenneth! I would love to follow you and have a great laugh! I too live in a small southern town, which in the 18oos, had the largest insane asylums in the world. Just a little trivia about Milledgeville, Georgia for you.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      GREAT read! Amazing information and spellbinding style. Voted up and away for your earned it. I love your writing style and I am now honored to FOLLOW you. Please keep up the great work and I Invite YOU to check out my hubs, that is if you need a good laugh. And I would love for you to be a follower. That would make my day. Highest Regards, Kenneth Avery, from Hamilton, a small (but proud) town in northwest Alabama that reminds you of Mayberry, that sweet town we loved on The Andy Griffith Show. Much Peace and Love to you!

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you adrienne2 for your comment. Yes, I believe in putting good business practices into every area of my life. Making sound and eithical decisions in business can be carried over into our personal lives with ease if we practice them every day. Thanks!

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Adrienne F Manson 6 years ago from Atlanta

      Very helpful hub, I never thought of selecting a charity to volunteer as the same as choosing a career. Good job!

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you DeborahNeyens! I have worked many years in the non-profit world and have seen the good and the bad that can be offered. Money and time is so tight these days, we all need to be careful where we give. Thanks for leaving a comment!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 6 years ago from Iowa

      This is a good list of considerations, mvillecat, and very timely for me.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you Bitterbug for leaving a comment. I hope this information is helping for you in choosing the right volunteerting fit! Good luck!

    • profile image

      BITTERBUG 6 years ago

      Useful information that will make any efforts in volunteering more productive and useful, not only in my own life, but hopefully where I may choose to volunteer at.