How to Apply for a Volunteer Position

Recently, I discussed the differences between volunteering and interning and shared some resources to help you navigate the differences between the two.

I also included resources to help you understand the regulations surrounding volunteering and interning based on where you may live.

Today’s post is a general guide for applying for these positions.

Note: this is by no means an official or comprehensive guide.

Rather, I hope that this post helps you feel more confident in applying to such positions by demystifying and simplifying the process.

Step 1: Find a cause you’re passionate about.

Avoid choosing the first opportunity you come across, and instead focus on an organization that are doing things that you find exciting. Make sure that you and the organization are a good match.

If you are having difficulties, take a look through sites such as VolunteerMatch or JustServe to help you find volunteer opportunities in your area.

Labor museum positions may be more difficult to come by and more competitive to get. These opportunities are rarely advertised widely. They may require you to email a primary investigator or a lab manager directly in order to ask about volunteer opportunities available.

Step 2: Establish what you can offer and when.

Some volunteer applications can be rather competitive and may require you to provide several reference letters. Other organizations are more relaxed about the volunteer process.

It is not uncommon to be called in for an interview in order to secure a volunteer position. Treat your volunteer application like a job application; put your best foot forward! Be sure to identify any relevant skills that you would be able to offer the organization as a volunteer.

When applying to a volunteer position, organizations will often ask you what your availability is and how long you plan to volunteer with the organization. It is important to review your weekly schedule before you begin your application. Find times in your schedule that you could devote to volunteering regularly.

Additionally, consider how long you’d like to be a volunteer. Are you looking to volunteer on an ongoing basis with no end date in sight? Or are you looking for a fixed-term position with a clearly defined end date for your position? Make sure that you specify this information to the volunteer manager during the application process.

Step 3: Start your new volunteer position.

During the application process, preferably during the interview phase, ask the volunteer recruiter what is expected of volunteers and if there is any training involved. You will likely have a volunteer orientation training session where you will gain a better understanding of your responsibilities.

When you’re first starting to volunteer, make sure you take it slowly. You may be eager to commit to multiple days a week with the organization, but start out with just one shift a week. Taking on too many shifts to start with may become overwhelming.

If for whatever reason, you do not feel fulfilled or happy in your volunteer position, move to a different organization. You need not feel stuck in any one position!

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