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Building Houses

Are you ready to volunteer?

Ask yourself these “ 5 W” questions and review this checklist before you start to look for volunteer opportunities!

WHO will I volunteer with?

  • I have narrowed my areas or causes of interest down to a maximum of 3 areas

    • With an estimated 8000 non-profit and charitable organizations in metro Edmonton, it can be overwhelming to start – especially with so many great causes. It helps to narrow your search right from the start. You can always explore other areas later.

  •  I can think of a few organizations that may interest me that I can research

    • Talk to other people who volunteer, visit websites and read their mission and vision statements, call the person in charge of volunteers and ask questions.

  • I know if I want to volunteer for a large organization or a small organization

    • Consider how you feel happiest and how you work best – do you prefer to be part of a large, well-known organization that has been utilizing volunteers for a long time or would you rather volunteer for a smaller, grassroots organization?  Both have advantages and challenges.

  • I know what matters to me

    • If you know where your heart’s passion is, it’s easier to look for a volunteer opportunity that speaks to that, making you more likely to have a great volunteer experience.

WHAT do I want to do when I volunteer?


  • I know if I want to have a front line or behind-the-scenes role

    • This is important to consider, not just for your own fulfillment, but also for what best suits your personality. For example, you might care about animals and think you want to be a front-line volunteer, but consider if it will be upsetting to you to see animals in distress if you are volunteering with an animal rescue organization. In this case, perhaps your efforts would be better spent behind the scenes, say in marketing or fundraising.

  • I know if I want to volunteer alone or with people I know

    • Maybe you want to volunteer by yourself in order to meet new people. Or, perhaps you want to spend your volunteer time also hanging out with friends or family – allowing you to catch up while you perform your tasks, and share your volunteer experience.

  • I know if I want to have a task where I work by myself (or in small groups) or as part of a team or a large group

    • You might have a really busy paid job where you have to deal with the public all day and would prefer a more solitary role, or perhaps you prefer the energy of larger groups and the conversation and sense of teamwork that brings.

  • I know if I need a lot of support or feedback or if I prefer to perform my work independently

    • You might be lacking in confidence or experience and seek a lot of guidance or support – and that’s okay…or maybe you need very little supervision and would rather take a project and run with it – which suits you best?


WHERE will I volunteer?


  • I know how I will get to my volunteer role

    • Will you be driving? Or taking public transit? Or maybe getting a ride from someone else? It’s important to know this when selecting a volunteer role because you may need to consider things like what time you'll be done if you are taking public transit and you’d prefer not to be out too late alone.  Or if you are getting a ride from parents, a friend or family member, you will have to consider their schedule as well. Even driving distance needs to be considered if you are accepting a long-term position.

  • I know what geographical area I want to volunteer

    • Are you okay with traveling far from your home? Do you want to volunteer close to work or school? Perhaps you prefer a central location…knowing this will really narrow your search for volunteer opportunities.

  • I am willing to volunteer from home (virtual volunteering)

    • Virtual volunteering is a great opportunity to give back in the comfort of your own home and usually on your own schedule (but not always). It’s important to consider if this is a good fit for you and if you are self- motivated and can easily meet deadlines.


WHEN can I volunteer?


  • I know how much time I can dedicate to volunteering

    • Be realistic about how much free time you have. Commitment and reliability are vital to having a successful volunteer experience. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

  • I know if I want to volunteer for one-time or short-term events (episodic volunteering) or if I want to volunteer for longer terms

    • Episodic volunteering (meaning one-time or short-term opportunities) can be rewarding and offer a lot of variety and a manageable time commitment. Keep in mind, however, that longer-term positions can often carry more weight in terms of leadership roles (think Board of Directors) or in creating relationships.

  • I know when I am available (days, weekends, evenings, etc.)

    • Be clear about what times and days you are available. Just knowing that information is helpful when searching for a volunteer role.


WHY do I want to volunteer - what is my motivation for getting involved?


  • I know why I want to volunteer

    • Consider why you want to volunteer at this particular time. Be aware of all of the benefits of volunteering and also know there are no “good” (altruism) or “selfish” (resume experience) motivations – what is important is that you do a good job when you agree to volunteer.

  • I am aware of what I hope to gain from my volunteer experience

    • Give some thought to all the benefits of volunteering, then think about the ones that matter to you - this will help you to set goals 

  • I have set some personal goals to achieve when I volunteer

    • How will you know if you are having a great volunteer experience? Setting personal goals is a great way to measure success. Do you want to make a difference in someone’s life? Do you want to make new friends? Maybe you want to learn more about a certain area – setting goals is helpful in evaluating your volunteer experience.

  • I have set some professional goals (if applicable) to achieve when I volunteer

    • If you are volunteering to assist in your career path, again it’s good to be aware of what you are hoping to achieve. Maybe you want to get a reference letter, or manage a project that you don’t get a chance to in your paid work – knowing this will help you to find and select a volunteer opportunity.



  • There may be costs associated with volunteering (parking, gas, clothes, food).

  • Make sure you have the support of those closest to you for volunteering.

  • If you can’t find what you’re looking for, contact the organization and talk with the volunteer coordinator – they are often open to creating a position for the right person.

Once you’re confident that you can answer these questions, it is time to learn what to expect before you start looking for volunteer opportunities!

"alone we can do so little. together we can do so much."

~Helen Keller

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