Holiday volunteer opportunities are in abundance this year, from the large food pantries to small businesses. Know the rules, restrictions and what the charity or business truly needs before you go to make the most of your holiday volunteer experience.
I’ve heard from so many disappointed parents that wanted to show their child the power of giving back only to be turned away because they didn’t realize the age restrictions, clothing requirements or commitment that was needed. It seemed like a waste of time for all involved. I did some research and made a volunteer kit to help you to get the most out of your time, and the organization’s time, with pointed questions to ask the volunteer person, an information tracker and hours timesheet. I’ve also included questions to prepare you or teens for interviews if the volunteer place requires an interview before you can help there.
Volunteering is more than just showing up and asking to help out. You have skills. Your kids have skills, and interests and a thirst for knowledge. Put all that together and apply it to your volunteering quests and you can propel those volunteering efforts into more than a brief encounter.
Once you find a charity, organization or small business that works well for your interests and ability to commit, be prepared to ask and answer questions, jot down names and information and keep all that information on a tracker.
Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering can help prepare kids and teens to work in a field they are considering. It can also help them realize their strengths and weaknesses. The right volunteer opportunity can help prepare kids and teens to successfully handle job interviews in the future!
Find groups or organizations, even local small businesses, that deal with issues that you or your teens feel strongly about.
Know Before You Go
When volunteering, be prepared to answer questions. Organizations want to know about why you want to volunteer with this particular organization and what you can offer.
Many kids and parents get surprised when they show up to volunteer and realize there are a lot of rules they didn’t expect.
Before volunteering, check the website of the organization you plan to work with. Soup kitchens and food pantries often require that you wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, closed-toed shoes or may have restrictions on what you can or cannot wear. When working with the homeless, many organizations have an age restriction and strict dress code.
Find a Good Fit
Volunteering can help kids to see what it’s like to work in a certain field they have an interest in. If you can’t find a place to volunteer that falls in line with your child’s interests, call a local business and ask if they need any help. During the shutdown and restrictions, some businesses are struggling and may trade some time learning about all they do if your teen can take out the trash, tidy up and do other basic housekeeping chores.
Think about what you like to do or when your kids are their most engaged. Kitty cats need love before they find their forever home and Homeward Bound Cat Adoptions is in need of helpers. Dogs need walking before adopting. Or maybe you would like to learn something new. Curious about horses? Ask to muck out a stable and brush a horse.
Volunteer Match can help you find local places that need help during the holidays.
Organize Your Volunteer Efforts
Once you’ve decided what you or your child’s interests are, make a list of all the places that are available to volunteer. Keep track of what organizations are looking for volunteers, the person you contacted, and any requirements. If you find an organization you like, make sure to ask questions and be prepared to answer questions as well.
I designed a volunteer kit to help children prepare for volunteering and get the most out of their endeavors. The interview sheet includes questions to help you realize all you can offer. Use them to practice interviewing for volunteer positions or internships. There’s also a detailed checklist of questions to ask volunteer groups you are hoping to work with. This can ensure it’s a good fit and there are no surprises when you arrive for your first day of work.
The handy volunteer tracker helps you keep track of who you have contacted, what the availability is and who has responded to your inquiries.
Not all volunteer organizations have timesheets available. This kit comes with two weeks of timesheets to track your hours for proof for future employment or volunteer opportunities as well as college applications, if needed.
With the pandemic raging, there are also ways to virtually volunteer. This is ideal for teens looking to pump up that college resume. United Nations connects you with organizations that are working for peace and development. Catchafire is a skill-based online volunteer organization and has holiday volunteer projects that range from an hour to a few weeks with things like writing thank you letters. Create the Good, AARP’s searchable database of holiday volunteer opportunities, helps you find local places in need.