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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: EconDiva on October 06, 2017, 08:35:04 AM

Title: Volunteering
Post by: EconDiva on October 06, 2017, 08:35:04 AM
For those who volunteer, what types of things do you do?

I am looking for a place to volunteer in my community, and there are so many things I could do but I want to pick something that would be a good fit. 

At first thought I was thinking something elderly related.  I feel like that population is often neglected but am not sure in what capacity I would be good at/want to lend a hand in.  I don't own pets but also thought about something with animals so I could spend more time around dogs without owning one. 

Just trying to get some ideas and in the meantime would like to hear about others' choice of place to volunteer in and how your experiences have been.

Have you ever had a bad experience volunteering somewhere?  Is the place you volunteer at somewhere that has grown to play a big part in your life? 
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: skekses on October 06, 2017, 09:27:46 AM
I've done volunteer work of different sorts over the years and whether it is fulfilling depends on the organization. If the volunteer programs are well organized, then it can be very fun and rewarding. Unfortunately I've also had some negative experiences. For example, I tried to serve on a Board of Directors, but when it became clear that the founder had all of the power and authority while the board was meant to rubber stamp all of his ideas, I became absolutely miserable with the work and resigned. I've also done some park cleanup work for both good and bad organizations. The good ones were prepared with tools, had a defined end time/meeting place, had picnics and raffles to encourage people to stick around and socialize with each other afterward, scheduled the picnics at a reasonable time, etc. The bad ones didn't have enough variety of tasks for people that wanted lighter work, didn't have defined end times/meeting places, had a meal available but only if you stuck around until late that evening (when the work concluded around noon), and so forth. 

The only way you'll really know whether it suits you is to try different things. I understand many people find Habitat for Humanity to have a well-run volunteer program and at least around here, they offer more than home building opportunities if that isn't your cup of tea. Our food bank also seems to have a variety of options including teaching programs for young people or non-native English speakers. Next week I'm working a booth at an Octoberfest hosted by a coworker's German organization. I've had friends volunteer at races because they enjoyed being around those communities.

Ultimately it comes down to your personal interests and motives, and whether those mesh with the organization you work with. If one doesn't fit, no problem, find another. Lots of organizations will accept free labor.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: lbmustache on October 06, 2017, 12:01:45 PM
I volunteer in these areas:

- Animal shelters
- Homeless populations
- Low-income/at-risk individuals/families

I would say I've stuck with the animal shelters and low-income/at-risk volunteer opportunities. I like helping people and animals are cute.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: Frankies Girl on October 06, 2017, 12:44:26 PM
I volunteer with:

Therapeutic horseback riding group (for physically or mentally challenged children - I primarily do the horse stuff like cleaning stalls, grooming/tacking up, and leading horses during the rides)
Wildlife rehab (I work with baby squirrels, possums and waterfowl)
Library helper
Substitute yoga instructor (no formal training, just sub whenever our instructor is out)
Neighborhood board of directors usually put a call out for helpers/volunteers. Just did face-painting for National Night Out.

Have plans to do Habitat for Humanity at some point.

Also considering running a crafty/art class at the library (they will let anyone run anything and put it on the library schedule as long as it is free and family friendly).
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: dycker1978 on October 06, 2017, 01:15:16 PM
I volunteer a lot for the events to promote equality for the LGBT population.

If you are interested in helping the elderly, you do not need any specialized skill set.  Go an talk to the activity director of a nearby seniors home. They will most likely allow you to come in and sit and visit to the residents.  They are often very lonely.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: marielle on October 06, 2017, 01:26:45 PM
I volunteer at a parrot rescue/parrot supply store. I started having basically no idea how to train parrots or much about them at all. I took a couple of their classes on parrots then became a greeter/store employee assistant. Basically, I would tell visitors not to stick their fingers in the cages and a bit about the adoption process and some of the birds.

Now I do the same but also train the parrots to be more sociable and work with potential adopters and the birds of their choosing. It's fun and rewarding! There are little birds like the budgies all the way up to the giant mullocan cockatoo. I also held a hyacinth macaw which was pretty crazy and terrifying. Apparently buying one of those is $10,000+.

I also volunteered at a Waterfowl rescue for a few months but had a pretty bad experience over a misunderstanding of the rules. Great place for the birds, but the director wasn't the best at dealing with people and many volunteers have quit or been kicked out. Glad it happened though because volunteering at the parrot rescue has been a MUCH better experience and much more organized.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: PoutineLover on October 06, 2017, 01:49:59 PM
I volunteered at a gym in the childcare room to get a free membership, that was fun because I like kids, wouldn't have been otherwise.
I have also tutored kids in the foster system, which I liked but would have enjoyed more if I was matched with kids who wanted the help, it was a bit of a struggle getting them to show up and to do their work, and that could have been due to my lack of experience as well. 
I now volunteer on the board of my sports club, which is a lot of work but I like my role so it's worth it to me. I'd like to get back into some community volunteer work, but I already have lots going on so I don't have a lot of time to commit for now.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: Chubbs55 on October 06, 2017, 01:51:30 PM
I currently volunteer with my local Humane Society.  It's not all about cleaning crap from cages although I have from time to time when needed.  A lot of what I do is help with sponsored events throughout my community.  We do a run/walk with your dog (or just on your own), I spend a day a month trying to adopt an animal which we sponsor through a collaboration we have with Pet Smart, or we might manage a concession stand for a baseball game or street dance which the humane society will get a portion of the proceeds (and we usually get to sneak a beer or two).  This past year I also started as a "Road to Recovery Driver" through the American Cancer Society.  It's not a big deal to me if I have the spare time, but anyone I have driven to an appointment is extremely grateful.   Both are extremely rewarding, not to mention I'm toying with the idea of starting a website promoting animal well being (and hopefully get me closer to FIRE).

You can go to to get an idea of what your interests might be and what is available in your area.

Hope that helps.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: BigHaus89 on October 06, 2017, 03:16:17 PM
I tutor math (and a little science) in a low-educated area. I have been working with one (very bright) student for 3 years now. I would like to tutor more than 1 student, but working full time doesn't allow for as much free time as I would like :)
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: mozar on October 06, 2017, 03:27:47 PM
Right now i volunteer at a timebank. A timebank is where you exchange time instead of money. I get hours for volunteering with helping the timebank which i use to get piano and drum lesson. My piano teacher uses the hours to get help running her business and so on. I would love to help socialize dogs.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: jeromedawg on October 06, 2017, 03:30:57 PM
A really good and practical thing to get involved in is CERT - it's really for everyone and anyone and it is important to know what to do in an emergency and how you can best help others in terms of general safety. It'll make you think of things you wouldn't have realized otherwise too. Most major cities and suburbs will have CERT and once you're official it's nationwide AFAIK, so even if you relocate you can be activated wherever you reside. In my area, they utilize and mobilize us for things like helping with community/city events (manning booths, walking the event to provide general help/assistance to attendees), assistance with locating missing persons, drills/training exercises for other CERT classes and also the fire authority and/or police, etc. It's a fun and practical way to get involved in the community and to meet your neighbors.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: wordnerd on October 06, 2017, 04:50:05 PM
I'm reading tutor at a school by my office.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: lbmustache on October 06, 2017, 05:00:20 PM
Right now i volunteer at a timebank. A timebank is where you exchange time instead of money. I get hours for volunteering with helping the timebank which i use to get piano and drum lesson. My piano teacher uses the hours to get help running her business and so on. I would love to help socialize dogs.

Are you available to open up your home? I used to foster dogs and while it's not without it's stress, it definitely is rewarding :)
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: mre on October 06, 2017, 05:59:27 PM
I am a volunteer firefighter and EMT in my small town.  I've been doing this for 9 years and have worked my way up from being a probationary firefighter to a Lieutenant.  Many towns have volunteer fire departments and will provide all of the equipment and training necessary.  If you aren't willing or able to run into burning buildings, they likely have other tasks that you could do, even as basic as handing out water bottles and keeping track of people at emergency scenes, or just doing administrative tasks or fundraising without ever going on an emergency call.

I also volunteer for the Boy Scouts and conduct training for youth and leaders in a variety of disciplines.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: FIFoFum on October 06, 2017, 07:03:02 PM
I have a lot of volunteering experience in my life & continue to spend a lot of hours doing so.

I have volunteered doing the following:

- with animals (shelter, rescue, assistance dog orgs)
- coaching sports (mostly youth leagues, some afterschool programs, also for athletes with disabilities)
- at a religious organization (mostly teaching but also doing other social service, like meals or visiting or people who are sick/elderly)
- at museum, aquarium (docent, educator, etc.)
- civil rights orgs (using professional experience)

The best experiences have become a real "third place" where I have community and friends who share similar passions. The average experiences are things you do for a while that you enjoy & feel like you're making a difference. The worst experiences were a lot of drama and ego or just disorganized/dysfunction.

In some of these instances, I got really involved, took on leadership positions. In others, I simply appreciated an org that used a lot of volunteers where you could sign up for your "shift," volunteer, and go home - no drama or other involvement or expectations. It seems pretty common for some volunteers to think that the minute they show up, someone is going to give them an "important" job or that they know how to run the org better than people who have been doing it for a long time. Good orgs do a nice job weeding these people out, which makes the whole thing a lot more enjoyable for everyone else. :)

I think it's important to try things out and realize that if one thing isn't a good fit, there is always someone else who would be happy for your contribution.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: mozar on October 06, 2017, 08:08:55 PM
Are you available to open up your home? I used to foster dogs and while it's not without it's stress, it definitely is rewarding :)
Who me? Yeah, I'm open to that eventually.
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: Gone_Hiking on October 06, 2017, 09:27:21 PM
I've been volunteering for at least 15 years, perhaps more.  Like most people, I get more out than I put in.

My first two years were spent volunteering for an organization that was helping victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors.  I was usually assisting with interviews with the new residents in order to prepare their case and as a hotline responder.  The hardest part of this experience was hearing the stories and not crying.

A few years later I have paired with another person to create a community garden.  That's when I got an idea that I could actually manage other people and I really felt connected to the community.

These days I volunteer for Toastmasters International and local startup community.  It is a way to help the local economy growing and feel like a part of community as well.  In my current capacity, I am an organizer and a connector.  Sometimes I advise early startup founders about bringing their ideas to life, organizing the initial team, and what kinds of skills the team might need.  Sometimes I listen and ask a lot of questions.  Sometimes I connect a startup that needs help with someone who needs a job. 
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: MoonLiteNite on October 07, 2017, 02:29:32 AM
I used to hangout with kids who have nothing to do after school, but due to all the background checks and rules and limits on spending money and crap, I had to get out of BBBS, and such groups. Now i just do litter pickup by myself after work at like 4am. No signups, no paperwork, no questions or set schedules, i just go out and do!

Last year was my last year to volunteer with Austin Marathon, and MS150 bike rides. Too much to deal with, with all their scheduling and promises that they want you to make :(
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: startingsmall on October 07, 2017, 09:14:38 PM
In the past, I've volunteered at zoos, wildlife rehab facilities, museums, and served as a mentor to a local student who was considered "at-risk."

Currently getting ready to start my first year as my daughter's Girl Scout troop leader.  I'm also on my county Board of Health, which isn't technically a volunteer position (we get paid $20 for each 1.5-2 hr meeting) but might as well be at that pay rate!
Title: Re: Volunteering
Post by: Bicycle_B on October 07, 2017, 09:24:57 PM
In remission from a long volunteering streak.  My intent was do-gooding, but most of it turned out satisfying/fun too.  Here are some of the activities.

Graffiti cleanup.  Breaking up gangs (not what I intended to do, but informative.  I survived).  Where to put a new highway.  Getting a library for our neighborhood.  Mentoring fourth graders.  Deciding what first-time juvenile offenders should do to stay out of juvie, and what if anything their parent(s) needed.  Neighborhood association.  City politics.  Park cleanup.  Foot races (handing out water, etc).