If you can go without paid work, volunteering is a great way to expand your network and make contacts that may be able to be your references in the future. Volunteering can help you avoid having gaps on your resume, build up your experience and sharpen your skills, and apply your knowledge while you’re searching for a paid opportunity.
This guide provides some basic information on how to find volunteer opportunities in Houston.
1. You should start by thinking about what type of expertise you can offer and the tasks you would be willing to do without pay. You may want to take an inventory of your skills set and highlight your top five skills. This will help you narrow down the type of work you can and would like to do.
2. It’s important to determine what type of organization you would be interested in volunteering with. Again, you can think about what interests you the most or what you’re most passionate about – do you want to help other refugees get settled in? Do you care about feeding the homeless? How about tutoring or teaching?
Make sure that you find an organization whose mission you care about, where you can do some good and ideally, where you can also learn something while helping others.
3. Think about your availability and how many hours you’d like to dedicate to volunteering each week. For example, do you want to work for only two days a week so you can dedicate the rest of your time to job searching and taking classes? If you do not want to volunteer on a long-term basis, you may consider volunteering during the summer or for a single event that an organization is having. Think about days of the week, hours per day, and time of the day.
4. Start researching organizations and opportunities. A good place to get started is Volunteer Match, (https://www.volunteermatch.org/), or Idealist, (http://www.idealist.org), where you can search for volunteer opportunities throughout Houston for a number of non-profit organizations. Idealist is also a good place to become better acquainted with jobs offered by non-profit organizations in Houston as well as the rest of the United States (and globally).
Other good resources include the following websites:
- Volunteer Houston, http://volunteerhouston.org/ - like Volunteer Match and Idealist, this website provides an inventory of volunteer opportunities for many organizations throughout Houston.
- All for Good, http://www.allforgood.org/volunteer-opportunities-in-houston-tx - this is another website providing an inventory of volunteer opportunities for many organizations in Houston.
- American Red Cross, http://www.redcross.org/local/texas/gulf-coast/volunteer - the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers in a number of areas. You can get involved in disaster assistance or in providing health and safety services.
- Houston Food Bank, http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/ - the Houston Food Bank provides meals to children and seniors who are in need. You can help by packing, preparing, or distributing meals.
- Memorial Assistance Ministries (MAM), http://www.maministries.org/ - MAM is an organization which offers a range of services for everyone (not just refugees), including rent assistance, case management, medical, transportation, financial education and coaching, free tax preparation, ESL classes, citizenship classes, and employment services.
Organizations that work specifically with refugees:
- Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, http://allianceontheweb.org - Alliance works with those new to the United States transform their lives in positive ways and ultimately, achieve success and independence.
- Interfaith Ministries, https://www.imgh.org/ - Interfaith Ministries focuses on consolidating relations between people of different faiths through dialogue and community work. The organization also works to resettle refugees and offers meals to the hungry.
- Amaanah Refugee Services, https://refugeelink.com/ - Amaanah is a large agency that helps refugees with resettlement and offers support.
- Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR) - http://www.pairhouston.org/ - PAIR works with youth refugees to mentor them and help them become better acquainted with Houston.
- Refugee Services of Texas (RST), http://www.rstx.org/ - RST resettles refugees and immigrants in Houston, TX.
- YMCA Houston, https://www.ymcahouston.org/ - YMCA Houston offers many activities for the community and provides services to refugees.
There is a wealth of volunteering opportunities in Houston and around the United States. These websites are just a sample of what is out there. If you have other interests, directly visit the websites of organizations to check if they have volunteer opportunities or use Google to search for opportunities. You can even use social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Meetup, to identify volunteer positions or events.
5. Regardless of how you find the opportunity, make sure that the organization you want to volunteer with is registered. You can find more information about an organization’s status and reputation through the Better Business Bureau’s charity directory, www.bbb.org/charity, or Charity Navigation, https://www.charitynavigator.org/.
6. Contact the organization(s) you’re interested in working with through e-mail, phone call, or paying them a visit. Many organizations tend to have a “volunteer coordinator” or developer, who you will want to get in contact with.
You can also follow the organization’s Facebook or LinkedIn pages to learn about upcoming events that they may be having. Sometimes events are good opportunities to learn more about organizations and meet people. You can also ask to set up a meeting with someone from the organization.
7. Start volunteering. If you decide to start volunteering with an organization, make sure you are a reliable, committed and consistent volunteer. Remember that it’s very important to directly communicate with your volunteer coordinator if you need to take time off for your job search. Good luck!