Social work volunteer opportunities are a way you can pursue your career as a social worker but feel more connected and professional about your work. Many social work volunteer opportunities exist for you to challenge yourself professionally and move forward in your career. We look at 12 social work volunteer opportunities you may consider.
12 Volunteer Opportunities for Social Workers
Volunteering opportunities are available onsite and online, with both options offering you resources to develop your skills and be part of a community. Some social work volunteer opportunities include the following.
1. Local Food Pantries
Your local food pantry is always in need of volunteers. Hunger and the fear that is part of not having enough food are always with communities. Your volunteering at your local food pantry not only gives families and individuals enough to eat but gives you opportunities to comfort people at a difficult time in their lives. With your skills at accessing resources, you can help people at your local food shelter have hope. Search for your nearest food pantry or bank with local and state websites, or go to Great Nonprofits for links to food banks and other resources.
2. Food Aid International
From local to global, Food Aid International is a volunteer-based meal packaging program. Food Aid partners with Kids Against Hunger to provide meals to nurture a malnourished child’s body and mind. Distributed around the world, the food packages serve diverse cultural tastes and religious differences for starving families and children. As a social worker working with diverse populations, you use your communication skills to help children and families thrive.
3. 7 Cups
Not all nourishment is physical. 7 Cups is an organization that connects those in need of emotional and psychological counseling to caring listeners for free emotional support. Social workers are, by profession, people who listen and advise. Using your communication skills for 7 Cups is one way to make a difference in someone’s life.
4. Crisis Text Line
Similar to 7 Cups, the Crisis Text Line needs volunteers to text people with emotional crises. The site addresses issues associated with Coronavirus, anxiety, suicide, depression, eating disorders, emotional abuse, and self-harm. Not only for those in the United States, but the site also has volunteer opportunities for social workers in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland.
Volunteering for a Court Appointed Special Advocate® (CASA) and guardian ad litem (GAL) position means you are appointed by judges to advocate for children’s best interests after they have suffered abuse or neglect. Many of these children are in foster care and need someone to advocate for them in the justice system. As a social worker, you will need to become familiar with the justice system, and CASA/GAL volunteering can help you become a better source for family, children, and individual resources in the justice system.
6. Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
Since 1904, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America has matched adult volunteers with children ages 5 to young adulthood for mentoring and coaching through childhood. Big Brothers/Big Sisters programs are community-based and school-based activities for children. They reach out to children of military families whose parents are on duty and to children bereft of their incarcerated parents. For social workers, volunteering with Big Brothers/Big Sisters means helping children through long-term relationships of mentoring and caring.
The YMCA offers numerous opportunities for social work volunteer opportunities. From translation to health care services, the YMCA offers social workers virtual and onsite ways to become a greater part of their community and share their knowledge and skills.
The YWCA is similar to the YMCA, but with a focus on women and combating racism. They offer programs in racial justice, health and safety, and economic empowerment and advancement. The YWCA offers child care services and programming, help for domestic and sexual violence survivors, and a program about family planning. Like the YMCA, the YWCA offers social workers many opportunities for volunteering.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is dedicated to stopping sexual violence. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) and partners with more than 1,000 local help providers. They also partner with the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN’s purpose is to help to prevent sexual violence, assist survivors, and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. As a social worker, your work is to communicate with sensitivity and compassion, a skill much needed with the RAINN organization.
10. Missing Maps
Missing Maps is an organization dedicated to creating maps of areas where people live at risk of disasters and crises. They help people and volunteers use the organization’s maps and data to better prepare and respond to crises and disasters. With your research skill as a social worker, Missing Maps can help people survive disasters and crises.
11. The American Red Cross/International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
The American Red Cross and International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement offer assistance to people caught in natural disasters and war. For social workers, working with the Red Cross, either nationally or internationally, is a way to use talents and skills to assist and comfort those in crises.
12. Translators without Borders (TWB)
Translators without Borders (TWB) has over 80,000 translators and language specialists worldwide for humanitarian and development organizations. They serve to close language gaps that create barriers to humanitarian and international development efforts. For social workers, this organization gives them opportunities to facilitate communication for relief and other activities aiding people.
Why Volunteering Is Important for Social Work Students
Volunteering has several benefits for social work students. Social work volunteer opportunities give students practical application of the lessons they learn in their classrooms. This real-world application of student work helps them understand their classwork when students see theory applies to their daily lives. With a deeper knowledge of classwork, students appreciate their work and are more motivated to succeed. Not only is this drive to succeed beneficial for students but also for the community.
Volunteering helps strengthen student ties with the community partners they will later work with as employees. Student volunteer work helps them gain understanding and knowledge of the professional role they will have both for themselves and for the communities where they work. Furthermore, social work volunteer opportunities establish the professional value of the social worker role for students. All these assets validate and enhance the social worker’s role.
Tips for Making the Most of Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteering with social work volunteer opportunities can give you valuable career experiences, emotional fulfillment, and professional knowledge, but before you volunteer, you need to know why you are volunteering, not only for your professional growth but to help those around you. It can be helpful to consider the following factors:
The Issues Important for You
Identifying the issues that mean the most to you is essential to social work volunteer opportunities. Being passionate about what you believe gives you the drive to succeed where you volunteer, not only for yourself but for those you help. An issue you believe in and an organization you support can make a difference for you and your community. Without passion for your issue, you can lose interest, become disillusioned, and have trouble committing to your advocation and your career. Being passionate about what you bring to your volunteering keeps you engaged and motivated as a social worker.
Your Relevant Strengths
Your unique skills as a social worker are part of your passion for social work. Knowing your strengths as a social worker, such as communication, technical skills, organization, and empathy for others, can help you decide where you want to volunteer with social work volunteer opportunities. For example, if you have good communication skills, you could consider working in a public relations role for a non-profit organization.
Using your skills effectively is an essential part of deciding where you want to work as a social worker, but developing your skills is as important. You should look for social work volunteer opportunities where you learn and gain more experience in your chosen field. For example, if you have been in private practice, working at a community organization can help you develop skills in working with the public. Training and other opportunities may be available for you if these are part of your career.
Volunteerism and Career Goals
Search for social work volunteer opportunities to help you reach your career goals. Gain practical experience with each volunteer position. Working as a volunteer in a non-profit organization, for example, gives you insight into how non-profits work. If one of your career goals is to work at a non-profit, then volunteering helps you to understand how non-profits work and where you would fit into working at a non-profit.
While gaining and practicing new skills is essential for your social work volunteer opportunities, make sure your current skills and experience are in line with an organization’s mission and needs. For example, if you are working with senior citizens, have the skills and experience of working with senior citizens. Organizations are always open to helping volunteers gain new skills and experience, but often many organizations do not have the time, financial, and human resources to help volunteers who are new to the organization’s mission or purpose.
Life goals are as important as career goals. When you consider volunteering with social work volunteer opportunities, think about how where, when, and how volunteering will affect your life goals, such as going back to school, having time to travel or raising a family. Knowing how dedicated you want to be to your volunteering and your career is essential. Do you want to make volunteering and social work a part of your life forever or your entire life or just a brief part of your life goals? Realizing your commitment goals is critical to successful volunteering and your career.
When you pursue social work volunteer opportunities, be sure you can balance your work, volunteer, and personal time. As a social worker, your role is to help others learn to balance their lives. In balancing your own life, you not only prevent burnout for yourself but are more able to help others. Commit yourself to volunteer hours you can manage and know the signs of being too stressed to be effective. Some signs of being stressed are irritability, fatigue, and forgetting to follow through on tasks. Allow yourself rest breaks as you work as a volunteer to be more effective as a volunteer.
You don’t need to go it alone with social work volunteer opportunities. Working with other people can make the volunteer experience enjoyable. Consider asking friends, family, student organizations you are involved with, church groups, and coworkers to volunteer as members of your community. Not only will this give your chosen organization more workers, but volunteering with others deepens community relationships.
If you don’t have much time to do volunteering, you might consider virtual volunteering. With a reliable computer, tablet, or smartphone and internet access and your skills, you can offer your time as a volunteer without having to leave where you live and have more flexibility about where and how you volunteer. Creating newsletters, a website, or staying connected with those who have email and need your services can give you opportunities for volunteering when you have time. Virtual volunteering also gives you opportunities to use and strengthen your computer skills.
Using your social worker skills is not just for traditional social worker settings and organizations. Social work volunteer opportunities are possible in school and health care settings. Think outside of the usual areas of social work to strengthen your skills as a social worker.
Social Work Resources
Many associations and organizations offer volunteer opportunities for social work students and professionals. A few of the more prominent national and international organizations are listed below.
American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare
The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare is an organization dedicated to research, scholarship, and best practices for social workers. This organization is involved in social policy, the application of research, and social work education.
American Board of Clinical Social Work
The American Board of Clinical Social Work is a credentialing organization for board certification and resources with online recertification and credential verification. Other benefits for its members are publication materials, insurance discounts, and networking, but not with conferences or dues. Publication materials are available for members for free, but there is a nominal cost for non-members.
American Council for School Social Work
Another resource for school-based social workers is theAmerican Council for School Social Work. This organization supports school-based social workers with resources such as a weekly newsletter, advocacy, journals, and other publications. For laypeople, such as parents and educators, the ACSSW provides information about issues students face in schools such as school violence, disabilities and access to education, and support groups for students.
Clinical Social Work Association
The Clinical Social Work Association provides assistance and information to clinical social workers. Information about malpractice insurance information, HIPAA standards resources, license advice, and information about best practices for patient insurance and paperwork issues are some resource materials the CSWA provides. The organization offers access to a telephone helpline about social work practices and issues. In addition, the CSWA keeps its members informed about legislation pertinent to social work and social workers.
Council on Social Work Education
The Council on Social Work Education(CSWE) offers resources for social workers, social work educators, and students. The CSWE sets social work accreditation standards and gives education opportunities. As an organization, it has a publishing press and conferences.
Journal of Social Works Values and Ethics
The JSWVE is a publication focused on social work, social work research studies, and theories. Its publication offerings are feature book reviews, a free email subscription for its news articles and newsletter, as well as a link for submitting manuscripts to the journal. The publication also offers an archive section for its readers.
National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF)
The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is an organization created to support the organization’s benevolent, educational, and research enterprises. They provide a range of projects to help social worker professionals, social work practitioners, and the public. NASW offers social workers help with education and training, credentials, and finding employment. The association publishes a newspaper, journals, and reference books. NASW advocates for social programs on local, state, and federal levels.
School Social Work Association of America
The School Social Work Association of America is a social worker organization for social workers in school settings. The SSWAA provides resources for research on topics such as crisis intervention, grief counseling, and emergency interventions in school settings. This organization offers advocacy, publications, policy information, and conferences for members.
Society for Social Work and Research
The Society for Social Work and Research is an international organization that promotes social work research. The SSWR holds an annual conference and curates a resource center for doctoral candidates. The organization produces an electronic journal for research and studies.
Volunteer Match helps people find local and virtual social work volunteer opportunities.
Obtaining education as a social worker and working as a social worker is a rewarding career that helps your community. Your work as a volunteer is a worthwhile calling that is emotionally satisfying for you and others. Please contact us at MSW Degrees for more information about how we can help you find the best social work volunteer opportunities.