Social workers can be found in all aspects of community life, including schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, senior centers, elected offices, private practices, prisons, the military, corporations, and a variety of public and private organizations.
Some social workers assist clients who are disabled, have a life-threatening disease, or are experiencing a social problem such as inadequate housing, unemployment, or substance abuse.
Social workers also assist families who are involved in serious domestic conflicts, which can include the child or spousal abuse.
In general, when the term “volunteer work” is used, it is usually followed by the word “social.” This is taken to mean that this is the type of voluntary service that includes any way in which one can do something for others without receiving monetary compensation, which is not entirely correct.
In reality, voluntary work entails devoting some of one’s time and abilities to doing something on behalf of someone else without receiving anything material in return.
Aside from this, there are other types of volunteer work that, while aiming to improve people’s lives, do not necessitate devoting one’s time and abilities to directly attending to them.
However, in the current context, voluntary social work can be thought of as a type of service devoted to people with special needs.
This means that what distinguishes voluntary social work is its emphasis on providing direct attention to individuals whose basic needs, whether physical, psychological, cultural, economic, or otherwise, are unmet.
Volunteering has a lot to offer people from all types of backgrounds and walks of life. People volunteer for many different reasons. Some of the reasons they may choose to volunteer are because they want to:
- Do something they really enjoy.
- Make use of special interests and talents.
- Learn new skills and develop new interests.
- Meet new people with similar interests.
- Make new friends.
- Find out more about a job or type of work which they are considering as a career.
- Have a chance to take some responsibility and make decisions.
- Gain valuable training and experience which may lead to paid employment.
If you decide that you would like to get involved in volunteering, and you are not sure exactly what you would like to do, then think about WHY you want to volunteer. This can be a useful way of helping you to focus on the sort of volunteering you want to undertake.
When it comes to volunteering, the possibilities are ENDLESS.
Here are some examples of what YOU might love to do as a volunteer.
- Coach a team.
- Read to children.
- Raise money for charity (fight diseases, reduce poverty, help the sick and injured, etc.).
- Care for the elderly.
- Feed the hungry.
- Provide counselling and support.
- Run errands and do deliveries.
- Gather and analyze data.
- Raise awareness of important issues.
- Do clean-up and repairs in the community.
- Build houses or playground equipment.
- Care for animals.
- Stage concerts, plays and other cultural events.
- Protect the environment.
- Plant trees.
- Help-out with a political campaign.
Finding free international volunteer opportunities isn’t always easy. A program fee is frequently charged by a volunteer organization to cover the costs of hosting you as a volunteer. Reputable organizations do this to free up resources for better serving host communities.
That being said, there are ways to volunteer for free. You can apply for a no-cost volunteer project through the Peace Corps, Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO), or United Nations (UN) Volunteers.
These organizations do not charge a program fee, may cover all of your expenses, including airfare and lodging, and may even provide a stipend.
However, these well-known international volunteer programs are highly selective and may require a significant time commitment (27 months for Peace Corps and six months for UN Volunteers).
Decide which causes you care about
Choosing to volunteer for an organization or cause that you feel passionate about can increase the chances that you enjoy the opportunity. Take time to determine what you really care about before beginning a volunteer opportunity.
Identify the skills and knowledge you can offer
Many volunteer opportunities ask that individuals have certain skills. Assess the skills you currently have to see if there are specific roles you could volunteer for. Most nonprofits also have entry-level opportunities that train you on the basics, especially if it’s a long-term role.
Create a volunteer resume
Creating a volunteer resume that includes your previous volunteer experience, as well as your skills and interests, can be a huge help when applying for jobs. A resume allows the organization to quickly see what you have to offer and help find the most appropriate volunteer position for you.
Determine how often you can volunteer
Identify how many hours and days a week or month you can commit yourself to the position. Being realistic about your availability can ensure you don’t overcommit yourself when volunteering.
Research volunteer opportunities in your community
Once you know your interests and your schedule, you can begin looking into opportunities in your community. Ask friends and family members if they know of any volunteer positions that fit your preferences.
Think beyond the typical nonprofit organizations if you can’t find an opportunity you’re interested in. Consider asking a representative of your high school or college to see if they have roles available.
Consider using a volunteer site
Another great way to find a volunteer opportunity in your community is to use a volunteer website. These sites allow you to input your skills, preferences, and schedule, and then match you with nearby opportunities.
Get all the relevant details for the volunteer position
Before applying for a volunteer position, ensure that you know all of the details. Learn about the tasks you’ll complete, the level of commitment needed, and any required training. The more information you know, the more prepared you will be if you get the position.
Apply for the volunteer position
Many volunteer positions require you to submit an application. While these applications are usually not as stringent as those for a job, you should still treat the application as if it’s for a professional position.
Take time to ensure proper grammar and spelling, and provide references if asked for them. You may also need to prepare for an interview if the position involves leading others or handling sensitive information.
Follow up after you apply
After applying for a volunteer position, follow up two or three days later if you haven’t heard back from the organization. Many nonprofit organizations are busy and have limited resources, meaning it can take longer to respond to inquiries about volunteer positions.
Following up ensures your volunteer application is received and conveys your interest in the opportunity.
Complete any required training
Once you have secured a volunteer position, complete any training required. Most training will be minimal, but some organizations require you to hold a certification or complete a training course before you can begin volunteering.
Begin with a limited commitment
When you first start, plan your schedule only a month or two into the future. See if you enjoy the position and organization before you make a full commitment.
Once you know you want to continue volunteering in this capacity, consider giving more of your time to the organization.
Treat your volunteer commitment just as you would a paying job. Show up on time, deliver on your commitments last minute, and be professional while performing volunteer work.
Nonprofit organizations rely on volunteers for many of their duties, so being reliable and professional makes a positive impact on the agency.
Regularly assess your volunteer experiences
Check in with yourself every few months to make sure you still enjoy the volunteer position. If not, you may want to consider searching for another volunteer opportunity in your area.
You could also speak to the volunteer coordinator to see if there are other roles available within the same organization.
Volunteering is one of the most effective ways to gain relevant, hands-on experience in the field of social work. It allows prospective students to prepare for real-world work in the field, and it allows current social workers to broaden or reinforce their experience.
This list will assist you in determining which types of volunteer opportunities will be most beneficial to you and how to obtain them.
10 Places To Volunteer as a Social Worker in 2021
1. Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers was started in 1904 by Ernest Kent Coulter and Big Sisters around the same time by the members of a group called Ladies of Charity. Both organizations operated independently until 1977 when they merged to form Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is currently active in all 50 states in the USA and 13 countries worldwide, including Australia, Austria, Bermuda, Bulgaria, Canada, Cayman Islands, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, South Korea, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The mission of the organization is to “create and support one-on-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.” Adult volunteers are paired with children ranging in age from 5 to young adulthood.
Location: All 50 states of the USA
Address: 230 North 13th Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107 U.S.A.
Date/Time: Time Varies (Consult webpage)
Telephone: (215) 567-7000 Fax: (215) 567-0394
Learn more about volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters here.
2. United Nations Volunteering
In 1970, the United Nations General Assembly established UNV with the initial mandate of providing qualified and motivated volunteers for the United Nations System in support of peace and development in countries they operate in.
UNV has a dual mandate of mobilizing volunteers for the United Nations System and advocating for the value of volunteerism in global development.
Every year, UNV directly mobilizes 7,000 people as UN Volunteers both nationally and internationally, with 80% coming from the Global South and, by 2020, 50% volunteering within their own countries.
Each month, UN Volunteers are given a Volunteer Living Allowance (VLA), which is a monetary allowance designed to cover basic living expenses. UN Volunteers must be at least 25 years old.
Location: Bonn, Germany
Address: UNV has six Regional Offices
- Amman (covering the Arab States)
- Bangkok (covering Asia and the Pacific)
- Dakar (covering West and Central Africa)
- Istanbul (covering Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States)
- Nairobi (covering East and Southern Africa)
- Panama City (covering Latin America and the Caribbean).
Learn more about volunteering for the United Nations here.
3. Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) For Children
The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) For Children is a national effort founded in 1977 to ensure abused and neglected children aren’t lost in the system.
According to the National CASA Association, there are over 93,000 volunteers serving in 49 states and the District of Columbia across the country.
North Dakota is the only state that does not have a CASA program. CASA services assist over a quarter-million children each year.
Social work students must complete 30 hours of pre-service training which includes classroom instruction, court observation, to begin volunteering.
100 West Harrison Street, North Tower, Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98119
1625 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 520, Washington, DC 20036
100 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 340, Atlanta, GA 30303
Date/Time: Consult with your Local CASA office
Learn more about volunteering for the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children here.
4. Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides health care services, benefits programs, and access to national cemeteries to millions of American veterans and their dependents.
VA employs over 250,000 people across the country at hundreds of medical centers, nursing homes, benefits offices, and national cemeteries. The department’s responsibilities are carried out through three main administrative channels;
- Veterans Benefits Administration
- Veterans Health Administration
- National Cemetery Administration
Volunteers are needed at VA Medical Centers for a variety of tasks including social work, counseling, nutrition, patient advocacy, physical therapy, and more.
Students may even be eligible for the James J. Parke Memorial Youth Scholarship as part of their BSW degree.
Location: Local Offices: Find Facilities and Services Near You.
Address: Veteran Affairs Building 810 Vermont Avenue NW Washington, D.C
Contact: Toll Free: 1-800-827-1000.
Learn more about volunteering for the Department of Veteran Affairs here.
5. RAINN Crisis Centers
The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting victims of sexual assault.
Despite its headquarters in Washington, DC, RAINN has over 1,100 partnerships across the country and a 24-hour online hotline.
Young social workers could provide survivors of sexual violence with critical services such as counseling, medical, legal, and educational support.
Location: Washington, D.C., United States
Address: Search by state and ZIP code at centers.rainn.org.
Learn more about volunteering for RAINN Crisis Centers here.
6. American Red Cross
Volunteers provide approximately 90% of humanitarian aid provided by the American Red Cross, a well-known nonprofit disaster relief organization.
Clara Barton founded ARC in 1881, and it responds to over 65,000 disasters each year. Individuals can pursue their social work passion by providing comfort and support to displaced families in the aftermath of floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters.
Passing a background check and First Aid certification is necessary before you can become a volunteer.
Location: Click here to Find your Local address
Address: 430 17th Street NW in Washington, D.C
Contact: 1 800 RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767)
Learn more about volunteering for the American Red Cross here.
7. Global Vision International
Global Vision International is a family-run, well-known volunteer organization that has been recognized by The New York Times for its award-winning service trips.
Over 2,000 people volunteer abroad each year, from Africa to Latin America and Australasia. Social work majors can participate in expeditions focused on community development, wildlife conservation, youth mentoring, women’s health, and other topics.
Volunteer projects can range from one to 24 weeks in length and can be used to earn academic credit.
Location: Find your location
Address: 75 State Street, Floor 1&2, Boston, MA, 02110
Contact: 1 888 653 6028 / 617 674 2105
Learn more about volunteering for Global Vision International here.
8. American Cancer Society
Consider volunteering with the American Cancer Society for oncology social work experience. This national non-profit has spent over a century assisting millions of people who have been diagnosed with or affected by cancer.
Programs like Relay for Life, Hope Lodge, and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer are available for volunteering. The Road to Recovery program has an especially pressing need.
Volunteers who are interested in participating in local training workshops can sign up online.
Location: Click to get local addresses
Address: 250 Williams Street NW Atlanta, GA 30303
Learn more about volunteering for the American Cancer Society here.
9. Meals on Wheels
One in every six senior citizens is unsure where their next meal will come from. Delivered Meals on Wheels Over 2 million volunteers in the United States are working to solve this problem.
Those interested in geriatric social work could help out at one of the approximately 5,000 community-based senior nutrition programs across the country.
Along with delivering meals, volunteers enrich the lives of seniors by providing safety checks, friendly conversations, and community resources.
Address: 1550 Crystal Drive, Suite 1004 Arlington, Virginia 22202
Date/Time: Flexible in contacting local providers
Learn more about volunteering for Meals on Wheels here.
10. The YMCA
Since its inception in 1844 in London, England, the goal of The YMCA has been to strengthen communities by empowering youth, enhancing people’s health and well-being, and motivating action in and across communities.
Around 10,000 YMCA centers exist and with the support of over 230000 volunteers in the United States to help people of all ages reach their full potential.
During the summer, students could also lead wilderness recreation camp programs. More than 230,000 people volunteer at the YMCA around the country.
That equates to thousands of neighbors, business leaders, parents, teenagers, community advocates, and individuals eager to give back. Volunteers at the Y provide people of all ages and backgrounds with the resources and assistance they need to be healthy, confident, connected, and secure.
Volunteers are essential to putting everything that happens at the Y and in their communities into action.
To summarize, volunteering for social work entails being conscientious and responsible. Knowing that humanity is a big family and that all of us – all of us! – are partly to blame for the disorder of this unfair world we have created and live in.
Voluntary social work, on the other hand, does not entail working on one’s own, helping those around us in whatever way they need, though this can be done; rather, it entails participating in a nonprofit making organization with similar goals to the ones we want to achieve.
Making a decisive and committed step to offer one’s services to a social activity organization is the proper way to participate in Voluntary Social Work, and this is what we all invite you to do.