Several years ago, Ben Ko started to volunteer for charitable causes when friends invited him to go along with them to an occasional organized event. After spending one Christmas morning plating food for hundreds of people, Ko was on his way home when he was approached by a gentleman on the sidewalk asking for change.
“That moment made me question how I could help in a way that would be more personal,” says Ko, a longtime yoga student who co-owns Golden Thread, a hair salon in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I looked for an outlet to share my craft and cut hair for people I may not normally see.”
After talking with colleagues and researching options, Ko offered his talents as a stylist to a local outreach center so anyone in need could walk in for a haircut. Simply by doing what he does best, he is able to help other people regain some sense of self.
If you’re looking to volunteer your unique abilities, opportunities abound. You just need to know where to look.
Have you considered…
If a simple online search doesn’t provide an answer, perhaps the easiest way to start is to reach out to a nonprofit, shelter, school, or other organization, explain your skills, and ask, “What can I do?” Any sort of help is usually welcome. The points that follow might help spark ideas about what you could offer.
- Those with construction experience can help build houses with Habitat for Humanity, or other building- or renovation-oriented organizations.
- Artists and graphic designers can contribute marketing materials for schools or nonprofits.
- Writers can draft letters or newsletters, or contribute to social media campaigns.
- Athletic and coaching skills are welcome at many after-school programs.
- Are you an accountant? Offer to help with paperwork and budgeting at a local organization (CPA license required).
- Yoga teachers can share the practice with senior centers, after-school programs, or at a prison. (Look into the Prison Yoga Project.)
- Photographers can provide animal shelters with images to help with pet adoption efforts.
- Like to read and work with children? Apply to be a teacher’s aide at a public school or read stories to children at shelters.
- Musicians can offer to perform at a shelter, providing background music during meals.
- Those with nurturing tendencies can hold infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in hospitals, as well as sit with the elderly in senior centers.
- Anyone can clean, run errands, do yardwork, or otherwise help neighbors who are elderly, sick, or undergoing other kinds of hardships.
- Chefs can donate their time, talents, and ingredients to fundraising events or auctions.
- Anyone with a desire to teach can apply to lead a free class at a local library, where many people turn for education.
- Hairstylists can volunteer their expertise at local shelters or contribute their talents to Cut-a-Thons that donate proceeds to charities.
- Can’t find an organization that offers what you’re seeking? Create it yourself. A background in music and a desire to help led the late educator, activist, and conductor José Antonio Abreu to found El Sistema, an after-school music program for underprivileged children in Venezuela. Decades later, it still operates in more than 50 countries, including the U.S.
From Spring 2022