The reasons to volunteer are obvious: to give back to your community and causes you care about. Luckily, there are some volunteer groups and options that are catered specifically to young professionals. These not only satisfy traditional reasons to volunteer but can provide other opportunities, too. I highly recommend them!
This post outlines five excellent ways for young professionals to volunteer. But first, what’s different and special about volunteering as a young professional?
When you (or anyone) volunteer, you often benefit from your volunteer work as much (if not more) than those receiving your service. You learn more about the world around you, the issues in it, and which issues you’re most passionate about. Those lessons happen no matter what point in life you volunteer. But, as a young professional, you have more of an opportunity to act upon those lessons. You are the generation that can help those issues and you can even shape your career around them!
You’ll see the volunteer options below are volunteer groups, not simply volunteer projects or causes. That’s because volunteer groups are great ways to make friends, network, and grow you personal and professional network. Young professionals volunteering is a powerful thing. Who knows what you’ll get together and accomplish! I can’t wait to hear.
Learn + improve skills
Use your developing professional skills to those who need it. Or, develop new skills via volunteer work. For instance, I learned how to build websites about a year ago, and as you can see from my blog, I am gifted (jokes). When I was traveling through Southeast Asia, I briefly worked with a volunteer organization, specifically with a grant to fight the trafficking of women, and found out they needed some help with their website. So, I volunteered to spruce it up and teach them easier website management. That helped contribute to the experience I needed to freelance web design. Volunteering is a great way to work on developing skills that you might not otherwise be exposed to.
So keeping these aspects of volunteering as a young professional in mind, let’s take a look at some places we can put them into action!
Rotaract via Rotary International
From personal experience, I can’t say enough good things about Rotary International. They sponsored me to serve as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student when I was 15 and I have been a loyal and active member ever since. The Rotaract is the branch of the Rotary club specifically for young professionals. You can’t officially join the Rotary until you’re 30 (though it may have been recently changed to 27, I’m not positive). The Rotaract is a great place in your 20s to make friends, network professionally, learn about the opportunities out there for people your age, and of course, volunteer!
Type of volunteering: Mostly fundraising. You’ll have a couple physical volunteer events annually, but the Rotary is more of a donation/foundation philanthropic club than a physical labor volunteer. This will, of course, vary depending on the Rotaract club.
The highlight: You’ll meet tons of people and be part of one of the strongest global networks on the planet. The Rotary has 1.2 million international members and is an amazing way to meet friends locally and have a base internationally.
Con: You rarely see the fruits of your labor first hand. You’ll sooner raise money for a well to be dug than you’ll dig a well. Just depends on what you’re more interested in!
Habitat Young Professionals via Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a construction-focused nonprofit that is dedicated to renovating slum houses into habitable homes for the poor. They have a chapter specifically for young professionals. They allow young professionals to not only donate their time building homes but to serve as community leaders and advocates for low-incomes citizens in their community. Don’t see a chapter in your own community? What a great opportunity for you to begin one on your own!
Type of volunteering: physical labor. This is for the volunteers that want to get their hands dirty and put their time and energy.
The highlight: You’ll get to physically put in the work, so you’re not wondering where exactly your money and time are going. Habitat also emphasizes getting involved in your community, so a great way to learn more about where you live! This is especially appealing if you’re moving somewhere new.
Con: It’s a lot of work! And it’s a very focused on one specific humanitarian issue, which can be a good or bad thing.
IEEE Young Professionals via IEEE
IEEE is “the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity”. Their IEEE Young Professionals network is an international volunteer and member community that focuses on, “elevating their professional image, expanding their global network, connecting with peers locally and giving back to the community.” Their events include: plenary sessions, professional workshops, tech lectures, and IEEE-specific events. They really enable their volunteers and members to lead their own events, even providing them with materials, ideas, agendas, and tons of support.
Type of volunteering: Professional development and event focused. You’ll spend time helping IEEE carry out their mission and their message. You’ll coordinate events and even lead them if you choose!
The highlight: If you’re passionate about the work of IEEE, this is an excellent opportunity to get experience in that field, pump up your leadership experience, and network like crazy. The events are fun, too! Very beneficial for young professionals.
The con: It’s not focused so much on humanitarian issues or other traditional charitable causes.
Dosomething.org is a campaign website. They generate creative campaigns that improve social and global issues and then get volunteers to engage in the campaigns. There are so many causes that you can choose to focus on at dosomething.org, so you don’t have to choose one. It’s also a great way to use social media to do good!
Type of volunteering: campaigns, mostly focused on social media
The highlight: You can contribute to literally any cause you can think of. If dosomething.org doesn’t already have a campaign toward the cause you care about (unlikely considering their vast portfolio of projects), you can create one and you’ll receive their support!
Con: The projects are typically designed to be country-wide, so you might not get that sense of community you’re looking for (though this is certainly not always the case!).
5. Organize your own volunteer project
This is my favorite way to volunteer, and this is something you can do with any of the four options listed above! Organize your own volunteer project! It’s a lot of work but it is so rewarding. Here are some benefits of organizing your own volunteer project:
- Choosing the cause you want to help
- Networking and meet new people interested in the same issue as you
- Improving your leadership skills
- You never know what one project can lead to
You can lead a project completely independently or under the umbrella of one of the organizations above. I’ve created a guide to leading your own volunteer project so you can keep all the info you need in one place.
What ways do you like to volunteer? What tips do you have for making time to volunteer while working?