This is part of our (almost) weekly How To Series.
We are now volunteering an average of 15 hours per week while traveling by car throughout the United States and Canada. We have volunteered for a wide variety of different projects and hopefully sharing how we get connected can help you get more involved.
First, a few caveats:
- One time volunteering is not a long term solution to any of our country’s challenges. I encourage everyone to discover what they are passionate about and make a lasting commitment.
- If can often require a lot of planning on your part and on the part of the organization for just a few hours of volunteer work. For me the planning and then sharing the experience afterwards is all part of the experience and makes it worthwhile.
- This advice may not be useful to non-U.S. citizens that are traveling in the U.S.. Some organizations have restrictions on how international visitors can volunteer their time.
- Environmental clean ups
- Trail building and maintenance
- Sorting donations at a thrift store
- Shelving and boxing food at a food bank
- Assisting with nonprofit events such as festivals, charity runs, holiday galas, and silent auctions
- National Days of Service provide more diverse opportunities
What kind of volunteer will you NOT be able to do on a one time or flexible basis?
- Tutoring kids in a school
- Being an advocate for abused children
- Working at a safe house for abused women
- Holding a leadership role of any kind, such as being on a planning committee, a non-profit board, or coaching a team
Ok, that said, here’s how I find volunteer opportunities while we are on the road.
- I start by looking for a volunteer center in the area we are headed. Most volunteer centers are part of the HandsOn Network and you can look on their map to find one.
- Most volunteer center websites list a “project calendar” such as the one HERE on Volunteer Arlington’s website.
- I use the calendar to get an idea of which organizations are hosting events or use “date-specific” volunteers. You can also browse organizations listed on the volunteer center website for more ideas or for a specific cause. I usually do not sign up through the Volunteer Center website because it requires me to create an online account and since I am only passing through I do not want to deal with the hassle.
- Next I contact the organization directly. I prefer email so that I have a paper trail. I usually google the organization, review their website, and then find the name and email of the volunteer manager.
- I introduce myself and explain our trip and ask if we can either sign up for an established opportunity or if there is a one time or flexible opportunity that we can help with. It is important to be specific and clear from the beginning that you are traveling and will not be able to make a weekly commitment. It might help to list your skills or relevant experience.
- Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation
- Grand Canyon Trust
- Search all federal volunteer projects HERE (some include housing or are week long backpacking trips
- Habitat For Humanity
- World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is another option that is more like an apprenticeship than traditional volunteering
- American Hiking Society
- Washington Trail Association
- Bike and Build (bicycle touring and building homes)
- Wilderness Volunteers
- REI Volunteer Vacations
- Road Scholar Service Learning Trips