3 Steps to Choosing a Volunteer Activity

By John Sabo
Vice President and General Counsel

Giving your time to an organization that you feel passionately about not only makes the world a better place, it helps you grow as a person and gives you greater purpose. With the seemingly endless list of volunteer opportunities available, choosing which cause(s) to support can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. There are some simple strategies you can employ to zero in on the opportunity that’s right for you.

I have volunteered at my church, coached sports teams, and helped out with Cub Scouts. But a love of animals led my family to its most recent volunteering passion.

A few years ago, we got involved with Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that provides highly trained service dogs at no cost to people with disabilities. Since then we’ve trained service dogs that have gone on to enhance the lives of their owners, giving them a sense of freedom they’ve never experienced before. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the direct impact we’ve had on the lives of others and to share that feeling as a family.

Identify a Cause

Before you decide what cause is the right fit for you, think about your values, the time you’re willing to put in, and whether you have goals beyond the good feelings you get for doing good deeds.

My family has always loved animals, so getting involved with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) was a great fit for us. When you see what these animals do to help people and how it opens up their lives, it becomes a passion.

Depending on the cause you choose, there could be some specialized training involved before you can officially get started. When we first started working with CCI, we each had to learn the right commands for training the dogs. It was a learning experience, but it was something our family bonded over and enjoyed.

Discuss Your Options

Getting involved with CCI was a family decision, and this effort is truly a family affair. The dogs go everywhere with us. It becomes a bit of a lifestyle.

When you’re weighing the pros and cons of the volunteer opportunities that make your short list, don’t be afraid to involve others in your decision. Your family may want to join in your effort, or they might want to voice concerns about the options you’re considering. And you might find that your choice has some unexpected effects on the people closest to you.

My son was 10 years old when we started fostering and training these dogs. He’s 15 now, and because of the exposure our efforts have gotten on local TV, he’s developed an interest in broadcasting.

Make a Commitment

Most people think of volunteering as something they have to limit to nights and weekends but check with your employer to see if they’ll support your effort during working hours. Some companies not only encourage people to get involved in charitable causes, they actually provide paid time off that’s earmarked specifically for volunteering.

I’m lucky to work for a company like Thermo Fisher Scientific that, as part of its mission to make the world a better place, emphasizes the importance of community outreach. They’ve given me the opportunity to drive awareness and provide education for my cause.

Whether you’re just starting on this journey or looking to add another volunteer activity to your busy schedule, remember that there’s something for everybody. The pieces are there. There are events you can get involved in to educate and drive awareness for your cause.

If helping others is an ambition of yours, don’t wait. Get out there and start making a difference.