Earn Work-Life Balance

Best Ways to Volunteer When You’re Already Swamped with Your Career

Kathryn Tuggle  |  February 15, 2019

How can you even think about squeezing in volunteer time if your life is normally budgeted in 15-minute increments? We’ll show you.

Most of my friends range in age from 23 to 53, and while we may have very different philosophies on things like dating and fashion, I keep hearing one common refrain: Life is crazy busy. We’re all so engaged with our careers and personal lives, it’s a struggle to find time even for the gym or a night out, let alone for volunteering. But the urge to give back is a strong one, especially if you’ve previously donated your time and have seen what an impact your efforts can make.

Thankfully, there are so many ways to volunteer these days (yay, internet!) you can find something that’s matched with your interests and time constraints with just a little research. Some of the best sites for finding volunteer opportunities are VolunteerMatch, Idealist, Create the Good, Points of Light and Taproot. All of these sites allow you to search for specific types of volunteer opportunities and filter by location—including remote. Once you’ve found a few organizations that strike your fancy, you can verify that they’re reputable by scoping their score on Charity Navigator.

Of course finding the time to give back may seem like the biggest challenge of all, so keep in mind that volunteering is worthy of whatever time you can give. It’s a great way to get outside your own head and make an impact in a new arena outside of your norms of work and family—you just have to make it happen. Here’s how.

Decide How Much Time You Can Spend Volunteering

Create a budget of time for volunteering. If you know going in exactly how much time you can spare, you can be upfront with your organization of choice when you make plans. Stick to your budget and you won’t have to worry about being overwhelmed and anxious when 10 hours turns into 20 hours. Commit to an exact amount, both for yourself and for the organization you’re helping.

It’s OK to be Choosy. There Is an Organization Out There for You!

You probably don’t have time to volunteer every week, and that’s just fine. There are organizations that would welcome you once a month or even once per quarter. When you find an organization you like, contact them and detail the hours you’re able to spare along with a list of your talents. While you may face some disappointments, there are absolutely organizations out there that will work with your schedule and interests. When you’re checking out options, make sure you create a list of at least five organizations where you think your skills would be welcome, and don’t give up if the first few aren’t a fit.

Think Outside the Bounds of ‘Traditional’ Volunteer Opportunities

The internet has completely changed the volunteer world. Not only can valuable opportunities be found from the comfort of home, countless jobs can be performed online. Today you can help a nonprofit with their email marketing or social media campaigns, or you could build a website or write grant proposals and marketing materials. The only equipment required is an internet connection. With many of these tasks, you wouldn’t be locked into set hours or required to work at certain times of day—your goal would be project completion. It doesn’t get more flexible than that.

You can always use the aforementioned sites to find remote opportunities (Taproot, in particular, has many remote opportunities for busy professionals) or you can check out organizations where the only opportunities are remote—like I Could Be or Strive for College, which both provide online mentors to kids in need. There may also be opportunities answering phones with your local crisis center or suicide prevention hotline. Find your local center here and contact them directly to see if they need help.

Look to Tie In Other Interests with Volunteer Time

We get it, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for everything you want to do. So why not double up? For example, if you’re constantly struggling to find time for exercise, look into volunteering at an after-school athletics program with kids. (Does anything burn more calories than a game of dodgeball with 11-year-olds?) Likewise, you never seem to be able to find time with friends, ask them if they’d like to join you for a few hours at an organization in need. You could make some wonderful memories together that will make for much better stories than brunch.

Whatever you choose to do, don’t lose sight of the fact that volunteering helps you expand your network and your skill set, and allows you to hone your interests as you try new things … It also looks great on a resume!

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