Finding Volunteering Opportunities: Your Questions, Answered


Finding Volunteering Opportunities: Your Questions, Answered

What type of community service should I get involved in?

The ideal volunteering opportunity is one that connects with your interests and/or skills. In other words, it is personally meaningful. So before deciding on a volunteering opportunity, reflect on the causes or activities that inspire you, or a problem that you would like to solve. Passionate about animal welfare? Perhaps volunteering at a local rescue shelter would be fulfilling. Does the medical field fascinate you? If so, it might be a good idea to look up youth volunteering programs at a nearby hospital. Interested in addressing inequities in STEM education? Perhaps you can help mentor a robotics team or computer club at an under-resourced middle school nearby.

What if I’m not sure what cause inspires me?

First of all, don’t worry! Many students begin their volunteering journey without a clear idea of how they want to change the world. A first step, then, is to explore your options. For example, Youth Service America has a great list of cause areas, from “stopping hunger” to “protecting mental health,” as well as ideas for getting involved both virtually and in-person. You can also explore causes via, a website that allows you to explore local volunteering opportunities by cause area. is a great resource for identifying community service opportunities also organizes teen-specific causes and campaigns that you can get involved with.

Some current campaigns on

I also encourage students to go through the list of clubs at their school. Most high schools have multiple community service oriented clubs that will help you find opportunities to get involved.

Volunteer clubs at Rio American High School

What if none of these options seem very interesting to me?

It is possible that you will look through these lists of causes and volunteering options and absolutely nothing will grab your attention. Join something anyway. Just do it. You may not fall in love with the first thing you try, and that’s ok. However, I promise that if you continue to put yourself out there, you will find a volunteering "match"—and probably sooner rather than later.

Do colleges care about community service?

Although no college requires community service of applicants, it is true that many colleges do like to see students who have taken the initiative to positively impact the world. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this. So rather than thinking of community service exclusively in terms of college admissions, focus on the ways in which you can make an actual impact. After all, colleges do not have a single community service activity that they are looking for. Nor do they expect every student to start a non-profit or travel across the world to volunteer. As long as you demonstrate a genuine, sustained commitment* to a cause, you will strengthen your college application. More importantly, you will gain skills, grow as a person, and potentially find a lifelong passion.

What are some other ways to find volunteering options?

--See if your city or county has a volunteering program. For example, the city of Sacramento has a section of the city website dedicated to youth volunteer opportunities. 

--If you are interested in finding a “community service project that matters,” I highly recommend checking out this video by Ethan Sawyer (aka “The College Essay Guy”). 

--Local libraries, places of worship, museums, and nursing homes often have youth volunteering opportunities.

--If you want to find nonprofits that have a proven track record of effective altruism, check out


* What does a sustained commitment mean? Basically, you want to prioritize recurring commitments that last multiple months/years over one-off events. In other words, prioritize quality over quantity.


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