How to get more involved in your community


Community service is a great way to feed your soul and help a worthy cause, but it’s also invaluable for networking, building work experience and finding a job. A column in the New York Times reported that volunteer work acts as a resume booster, helping volunteers gain useful skills and demonstrate their work ethic to potential employers.

But, how do you start volunteering? For eager activists who don’t know where to start, here are some easy ways to get more involved in your community.

1. Browse the usual suspects. There are a few websites that are essential for nonprofit organizations seeking to recruit volunteers and, therefore, just as essential for anyone seeking volunteer opportunities. Start your search with these sites:

Idealist.org: Filter your search with keywords, interests and other categories to find the best volunteer opportunity for you. Idealist is also a great resource for finding a job or internship in the nonprofit sector.
VolunteerMatch: Just plug in your location and keywords about your volunteer interests, and VolunteerMatch will connect you with opportunities in your area.
HandsOn Network: Enter your zip code, and select your volunteer interest from the drop-down menu to find a fitting volunteer role. HandsOn’s DC-specific site, Greater DC Cares, is also an excellent tool for locating service opportunities in the DC area.
2. Participate in a charity walk. The American Fitness Index recently ranked DC as the second healthiest city in America. Numerous marathons and charity walks helped the city earn its healthy reputation while raising awareness and funds for important causes. Here are a few charity walks happening in the DC area this summer:

24th Annual Leesburg 10K and 9th Annual 20K on Sunday, August 19 in Leesburg, VA, organized by Harris Teeter to support the youth programs of the YMCA Loudoun County.
Run! Geek! Run! 8K on Saturday, September 15 in West Potomac Park, supporting the Equal Footing Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit focused on youth development and education.

3. Organize a food or supplies drive. It’s easier than you may think to organize an in-kind donation drive in your community. If you want to organize a food drive at work, it may be as simple as placing a bin in the lobby with a note above it, letting your co-workers know about your cause and asking them to help out. For the more outgoing volunteer, recruit some friends to help you stand outside supermarkets with signs and donation receptacles to ask entering customers to buy an item to contribute on their way out. People love to help out in this way because it’s convenient and often more comfortable than giving cash.

4. For do-gooders on the go, try microvolunteering. Microvolunteering is a growing fad in the nonprofit community. It involves taking on a volunteer task that can be completed entirely online. Two popular microvolunteering sites are Sparked.com and HelpFromHome.org. Microvolunteers can be incredibly valuable to nonprofit organizations because they’re able to take on some of the basic research, data entry, writing and design work that often takes staff away from important program work.

Though just a few of the many ways to get more involved in your community, all of these resources are incredibly useful for accessing volunteer and service opportunities in the DC area. Now you’re equipped to get out there and do some good!

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