Want to Get Involved With a Nonprofit? Here’s How You Can Get Started

Americans are generous. In 2017, the American people collectively donated $410 billion to charitable causes. We give in other important ways, too, volunteering to roll up our sleeves and make the world a better place—whether serving food at soup kitchens, building homes for Habitat for Humanity, or mentoring at-risk youth.

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million 501(c)(3) organizations in the United States. That means there’s sure to be a cause that speaks to your interests and passions.

At Invest in Others, we’ve had the great fortune to support many worthy nonprofits across a wide range of areas, including: Arts & Culture, Education & Youth Programs, Health & Wellness, Human Services & Economic Development, Hunger & Poverty Prevention, International Causes, and Military & Veterans.

Ready to find the right nonprofit for you? We’ve put together some tips to help you find the perfect match.

Follow Your Passion

If you’re looking to get involved with a nonprofit, think about the issues you care about the most. What kind of impact do you want to make? Then do your homework. A good place to start is by scrolling through the many excellent charities we’ve helped to support over the years. You can narrow your search according to geographical region, charity type or mission.

Sometimes, a charity or cause chooses the volunteer, not the other way around.

In 2005, Rob Shick was diagnosed with leukemia. Thanks to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and the groundbreaking work of its director, he went on to make a full and speedy recovery. Grateful for the care he received, Rob became a tireless advocate for the organization, serving as a foundation board member and institute council chair who led the effort to raise an unprecedented $1 billion as part of a single campaign.

“People thank me all the time for my efforts, but I am the one who is thankful because this is not work, it is a privilege to be alive and involved in something much bigger than me,” Rob said.

Get to Know the Organization

Having narrowed the field, you should take an up-close look at each organization. Attend an event or schedule an on-site visit. While there, speak with members and volunteers. Think through the logistics: What skills can you offer? How much time do you have to give? What do you want to get out of the experience? It’s a lot like dating. You wouldn’t propose after the first date, nor should you make a firm commitment without understanding how you fit in with the organization from a cultural standpoint.

Jonna Keller, a 2017 Invest in Others finalist, became involved with the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota County (BGCSC) after attending an event. Inspired by hearing the story of a young man who credited the organization with “saving his life,” Jonna began reading to children and went on to become board chair and treasurer.

“I completely related to what the BGCSC mission was trying to accomplish,” Jonna said. “I feel blessed to be a part of such of a loving organization with staff, board members and children that have all become one big family.”

Get to Work

There are a lot of ways to give back. As a volunteer, you can lend your unique skills to helping others. If you work in financial services, you can offer to tutor young people in financial literacy or serve on a finance committee. Often, people decide to take on greater responsibilities the longer they’re with the organization—just like they do in their careers.

Chad Greer, a 2015 Invest in Others finalist and longtime volunteer with United Way, started supporting the charity by serving dinner each month at Safe Haven Family Shelter in Nashville. Knowing that his financial expertise could benefit the organization in an even bigger capacity, he became an advisory board member, where he helped the agency stay afloat during a difficult financial period.

“I have the resources—time and ability—to give back, and the management skill set (as a wealth management advisor) to provide leadership and fundraising support to nonprofits,” Chad said. “I don’t like to just give money and do nothing. I like to write a check, raise money and get involved to support the people served by the organization.”