There’s a great tradition in Culver City of volunteering and donating to those in need and to the city as a whole. That caring spirit creates a strong community that benefits everyone. I know for our teen volunteers it can sometimes be challenging to find a way to complete service hours and give back. We hope you will be able to use this page as a jumping off point for volunteering. Please read through the tips below, take a look at the information linked to on the sidebar and check out our twitter feed, which is updated regularly with upcoming volunteer opportunities.
Figure out why you’re helping. Are you helping because you believe in the cause? Because you think the activity sounds fun? Maybe it’s because your friends or family are helping. It could be because your school requires community service hours. Or you think it would look good on a college application. Guess what? All of these reasons are perfectly good reasons to help. But it’s also a good idea to know why you’re helping – you’ll have a better experience and help others even more! Find something that you like and care about. It could be anything: the environment, the homeless, seniors, endangered species or anything else. The fact is, if you’re helping a cause you care about, it will be easier to get involved and to make a difference!
Identify what days, and times of days, as well as the first day and last day you are available. Identify how many hours you are hoping to volunteer each week and each month. Most organizations don't have tasks lying around waiting for volunteers who, when they might have some time, could just show up and do -- they need to know when volunteers are coming in to do them. Even if you identify just two hours every other Tuesday as when you are available, that's really helpful for organizations and you. You will be responsible for your transportation to and from a site for volunteering. Start thinking about your transportation now, before you start asking about volunteering: will you take mass transit? Ride a bicycle? Walk? If someone is going to drive you, has that person already committed to always be available during certain days, and certain times of days?
In many ways, searching for a volunteer opportunity is much like looking for a job. You are expected to research positions, apply and when accepted and you have a position show up on time and work hard. When calling sites be sure to speak clearly and always leave your name and telephone number. If emailing, be sure to use correct grammar and be specific as possible about what you’re looking for, perhaps mentioning some of the items above such as schedule and why you want to volunteer there. If you are in High School you should NOT have a parent, teacher or counselor calling on your behalf; that tells the organization that you aren’t serious about volunteering yourself. Would you hire someone who sent their Mom to the job interview? Before you make a commitment, take a good look at your schedule and your life, and make sure it’s a commitment you can keep. A good tip is that it’s easier to start slow and then add more than the other way around.
You will probably need to call and email several places just to get an appointment for an interview. It may take 3-4 weeks or even more before you get started volunteering even if you start calling right away. Do not think you are going to call a place today and be volunteering tomorrow morning. Keep track of the places you contact and who you speak to so that you can follow-up if you don’t hear anything. Do not show up at a site unannounced. For instance, don't just show up at a Habitat for Humanity work site and say, "I'm here to volunteer." You need to call any organization you want to volunteer with at least weeks before the date you want to volunteer and go through an organization's formal application and orientation process, and get the okay from the organization regarding your start date.
99% of volunteer jobs involve an application process of some kind to participate. It may be as simple as signing a waiver for a beach cleanup, or as intense as going through intensive weeks-long training, getting a fingerprint check, medical tests, etc. It all depends on the volunteer activity and position. You will have to be trained for just about any volunteering you want to do, but training will be counted as a part of your volunteering time by whomever may be interested in such (a university, a court, a school, etc.). Be ready to track volunteering hours yourself; use a spread sheet or a paper notebook, and write down the name of organization you assisted, what you did, the day, and how many hours you contributed.
If you are under 18, you will likely have to get a parent or guardian to sign a permission slip that affirms you are permitted to volunteer. You will get this permission slip from an organization that wants you to volunteer. If you are under 16, it will be harder to find volunteering opportunities, because many organizations won't involve anyone under 16 for liability reasons. Be sure to check out the “Lot’s o’ Links” button for some links with ideas for younger teen volunteer projects.
Our volunteer office has information on more than 80 sites looking for volunteers. We are happy to help all community members in their efforts to find the perfect opportunity to give back. Please stop by our office at the Culver City Senior Center on Tuesday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or contact Volunteer Specialist Jill Thomsen at 310.253.6722 or via EMAIL.