How to find volunteer opportunities for groups
Great idea! Instead of a holiday gift exchange, as a way to team build or give back to the community, your group, sports team, work department, church group, classroom or service club wants to volunteer together. Finding organizations that accept individual volunteers is rather easy … finding places that accept groups is bit more of a challenge!
Groups representing a business (corporate groups)
First of all, make sure you know what the people in your group want to do.
Are you looking for an opportunity where you are all together and able to visit while you work? Or are you okay with people being split off into smaller groups?
Are you okay with behind-the-scenes activities, like preparing a meal, or do you want to be the people who serve or deliver the meal?
Once you’ve sorted that out, you can start looking for opportunities. It makes sense to pick some organizations that align with your company's values or complement the work that you do (for example, a great fitting partnership is Habitat for Humanity and Home Depot). What is your company about? Are you about making people feel safe? Then how about an organization that fills basic needs, like one with a food-centered or shelter-centered organization. Is your product mainly marketed to women, then how about an organization that supports women’s health or safety? Maybe you are geared towards supporting business, then perhaps something like a junior business association, or an employment readiness organization would be a good fit. You don’t have to pick a similar or complementary non-profit to have a successful and mutually beneficial experience, but if you do, you’ve already got a foundation for a good partnership.
Groups involving minors
This is a little tougher because there are many organizations, or volunteer opportunities within an organization, that exclude minors due to insurance or safety concerns. That being said, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a place to take your youth group, class or sports team! Do keep in mind that you have to send an appropriate number of adult supervisors to volunteer as well. Be sure to ask the acceptable ratio of adults to children for the organization in which you’ll be volunteering. It might be easier to manage smaller groups of youth working on projects than one large group.
Searching for opportunities
When searching online volunteer databases, there are sites that have search filters that can help you narrow down an opportunity for a group.
You can search by "groups" and that will filter your results to posting with the word groups in them. Bear in mind it may not be as accurate as you'd like (a posting could read "work with groups of children" for an ad for a swim instructor for example, which would not be a suitable group opportunity, but it does help to narrow down the search field. Also, when organizations post on this site, they can check off "suitable for groups" which will be very helpful to you! Although a new player in the Edmonton area, this website is rapidly growing in popularity with local non-profit organizations and the list of volunteer opportunities is growing regularly so check back often.
Goz Around does not currently single out volunteer opportunities for groups, but does allow you to create a private (or public) group and describe what you are looking for. Non-profit organizations can then post opportunities to your page that you can check out.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the traditional search sites, then try Google. If you know you’d like to volunteer for an organization that supports mental health, then Google just that - “non-profit organizations in Edmonton (or wherever you are) that support mental health.” From there, you can go to the organization’s website and see what its got for opportunities. Keep in mind that a lot of non-profits don’t advertise their opportunities on their websites. (Why? You ask? Well, there are a variety of reasons: they may simply not have the manpower or technical knowledge required to keep their site up-to-date – especially if things change quickly, they may not host their site and therefore making changes can be time consuming, so it's best to call or email with your specific request).
Contact the organization
Even if there’s nothing listed on its website – if you’d really like to work with them, then give them a call (or email). Most organizations are open to great ideas that involve volunteers – so talk to them and see how you might be able to work together – be sure to give them plenty of lead time to properly plan, create, and get approval for this opportunity.
Keep an eye or ear open in local media
TV stations (Global, CFRN, City TV and CBC) will often run spots featuring upcoming events and volunteer opportunities. If it is a notice of an event (a gala or fun run, for example), you can bet that same organization is also looking for volunteers to host it!
Radio stations will also talk about the events and work of non-profits so keep an ear out for those spots and DJ conversations.
Think of events and festivals
If you are looking for a one-day or one-time volunteer position for your group, then events, festivals or seasonal opportunities may be the way to go. Some local events take as many as 1500 (or more) volunteers so there will likely be a place for your group in that scenario. Click here for a listing of Edmonton's festivals and events.
The key to finding opportunities – start early and be flexible
Giving yourself plenty of time to do the research internally, with your group, and externally, with non-profit organizations. It takes time to search for opportunities that will ensure a good fit for you and the non-profit organization. As well, keep in mind that the date you’ve chosen for the “day of caring” your company has dedicated to volunteering may not fit with the potential organization so if you have some flexibility to the date, times, etc., this can help widen the number of potential places to volunteer.