March 19, 2018 ・ Written by T.J. Duane

Looking for work experience? Look to the nonprofit world.

Local nonprofits need your help.

Looking for work experience? Look to the nonprofit world.

You’ve graduated! The parties are done, your mortarboard is retired…what’s next?

If you’ve not yet scored the job or internship of your choice and you’re feeling adrift, consider some volunteering in the nonprofit world. Even if your career will be in the private sector, there may be valuable volunteer opportunities hiding in your neighborhood.

Resume building and the chance to do good in the world, too? That’s too great to pass up. Here are some tips on finding the right organization to help out.

Think small. Think local.

We all know the prestigious national volunteer organizations Americorps and Peace Corps, but these programs aren’t an option for everyone. Admission is competitive, and not everyone has the financial safety net to be able to afford time away from work.

Smaller organizations will have less formalized volunteer programs, with activities that could be performed after work or on weekends. Think about what impact you’d like to have, and find organizations that align with your values. Use Guidestar or VolunteerMatch to find volunteer opportunities and organizations near you.

Don’t be deterred if an organization doesn’t list volunteer opportunities on its website - lack of volunteer information doesn’t mean there’s no need for your skills. It can never hurt to email the executive director or volunteer coordinator with a sincere offer to help.

Use your skills, or build new ones.

If you’re worried that your skills don’t align with a nonprofit’s mission, just think outside the box. People with business skills of all kinds are sorely needed at many nonprofits. Nonprofits need designers, writers, marketing professionals, and accountants just as much as any other business. Your experience doing graphics for your a capella group? It could be in demand. Feel free to offer your skill set, and see what nonprofit has a need for it.

If you’re seeking to develop skills for the first time, we recommend that you volunteer something you can do before you ask for training in something you can’t yet. Start showing up, get some credit with the organization, and then ask about training opportunities.

Be willing to show up, do the work.

Remember - volunteering for a nonprofit isn’t just about having a line on your resume. Prioritize your volunteer work in order to get the glowing reference you’re hoping for.

This doesn’t mean abandoning your day job in favor of volunteerism. What it does mean is this - you must set realistic expectations. Make it clear how many hours you can devote to your volunteer projects, and always follow through if you say you’ll be there.

Communicate any delays, just as you would for a full-time gig. We all know that life happens, a quick email update helps your chosen organization know you’re on top of it. And remember - just because you’re a volunteer doesn’t mean you get to leave an organization in the lurch on a whim. Be cool. Be classy. Follow through.

If you’re looking to share your skills or to find someone who can help your nonprofit, submit an ask or an offer on BrightCrowd. You just might make a beautiful volunteer match.