A few months ago, I moved across the country to a new city for graduate school. I’d never been to the city and knew nothing about it. I remember walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store just trying to find the pasta. I was completely alone.
I knew volunteering was a great way to meet people, get involved in a cause I was passionate about, and shift my focus outside of myself and away from my loneliness. I knew these things. I’d even blogged about them before. But being in the situation myself, I felt overwhelmed and wished there was someone to help.
So here you go – three simple tips from someone who’s been there:
1) Ask Around
The easiest way to learn about organizations in your new city is to ask. Talk to your neighbors, call a church, ask the barista (yes, I realize this requires talking to people you don’t know – you can do it!). People love talking about causes that are important to them, and you will find that word of mouth is a powerful tool. Not only will asking around get you out of your comfort zone, but you’ll also learn about some of the best places to volunteer.
2) Visit a Library, Co-op, or Community Center
I found that many public gathering places have volunteer opportunities posted on bulletin boards. Employees at community-minded centers can also be a great resource for you and act as a barometer for how the community functions.
3) Use a Website like Volunteermatch.org
Volunteer Match is a great service that can familiarize you with volunteer opportunities in your area (all you need to do is enter your zip code). Often, you will find more search results than you know how to navigate. One suggestion at this point is to make a list of the top five opportunities that appeal to you, and then do some research. What can you find out about the organization? Do they have a website? Can you call to talk with someone who works there? It’s helpful to enter into a volunteer opportunity with a good idea of what you’re getting into.
Before you go, be sure to check out our previous postÂ on five practical ways to become a more valuable volunteer.