Many people want to volunteer as a team or group, from five people to 500 - even more. They can be employees from a particular company, members of a club or association, or even just a group of friends who would like to spend time together at a volunteer activity. They may be adults, teens, or pre-teens. A group may also be a family. They want their group volunteering activity to take from two to seven hours. They want to be all together as much as possible, to socialize throughout the experience - they don't want to be isolated from each other individually (though they are usually willing to be broken up into smaller groups). And they usually don't want to have any obligation beyond that one-time volunteering experience; they want the experience to feel like they show up, they volunteer, they have fun, they make a difference, and then they leave and never have to help again (though they often welcome invitations for further involvement, as individuals).
Unfortunately, volunteering opportunities for such groups are very hard to find. The larger the group, the harder it is to find opportunities. The more people under 16 in the group, the harder it is to find group volunteering opportunities. Finding a group volunteering opportunity for six people is much easier than finding a one-day opportunity for 150 people. Finding group volunteering opportunities for a group of people over 18 who all work for the same company is much easier than finding opportunities for a group of students from different high schools who are under 18.
Do not wait until the last minute to try to volunteer in a group! You will probably need to call many, many, many places just to get an appointment for an interview! It may take a few months before you get your group booked for a volunteering activity even if you start calling right away!
What Do Volunteer Groups Do?
Group volunteering activities are hard to find because nonprofit organizations have a hard time developing activities for a group to participate in altogether. It's simple to create volunteering activities for individuals. It's much harder to create activities that an entire group can do together, all at once, that the organization really needs.
Here are ideas for group volunteering activities (note that you should NOT do any of these without coordinating with the target organization several weeks, even months in advance!):
Before you begin to search
One person from the group will need to be the primary group contact and deliverer of information. This person will receive all communications on behalf of the group regarding volunteering, and will be responsible for communicating with all group members. This person will also attend any orientations required before volunteering, and communicate information from this orientation to other members.
The group's leadership needs to take an assessment of all group members' availability for, interests in and goals for a group volunteering activity. This will help you in choosing a group assignment, and ensure that everyone has a positive experience and that their expectations will be met. For instance, the group may interested in environmental issues and members may be available to volunteer only on Saturdays after 8 a.m.
Does your group want to be engaged in the same activities during the entire group volunteering endeavor? Or, would your group be willing to separate at the event or location to engage in a variety of tasks; for instance, at a community center, one person reads to an elderly person while others help at an activity for youth and others help re-organize the center's stock room.
What talents and experiences are volunteers interested in sharing in this group effort? For instance, the marketing director may not want to help with marketing efforts as a volunteer but, rather, share her talents at basic home repair.
Do members of your group want to bring family members along to volunteer? The nonprofit you assist will tell you if this is acceptable (it probably will NOT be; you may need volunteers to provide childcare for other volunteers).
Someone in the group needs to have the responsibility to fill out application forms, and ensure all individuals in the group have filled out appropriate forms; often, volunteer hosting organizations require the completion of such forms not only for the group as a whole, but for every individual that will participate. A representative of the group or just one member may be asked to complete a Waiver of Liability form.
If you are participating in an employee-based group volunteering activity on company time, or if you are taking vacation time to volunteer on behalf of the company, make sure you have permission and support from your immediate supervisor.
If you are volunteering on behalf of an organization (such as a school) or company (such as your employer), you must make sure the organization or company supports the group volunteering activity and all the responsibilities such entails. Also, ask the organization or company how it wishes to be represented within the group volunteering activity. Sometimes, schools or companies don't wish to be represented officially, other than by their students or employees engaging in the group volunteering effort; others want their students or employees to wear the same t-shirt with an official logo on it while volunteering, and still others may want to publish a press release highlighting the volunteer activity.
Most people want to volunteer for nonprofit organizations. Registered nonprofits based in the USA have a federal tax i.d. number. If you aren't sure if an organization based in the USA is a registered nonprofit, ask if they have a federal tax id number, or look up the organization on Guidestar.org, a database of all registered nonprofit organizations in the USA.
Your group will be responsible for its own transportation to and from a site. Start thinking about that now: will you take mass transit? Ride a bicycle? Walk? Car pool?
If any members of the group are under 18, each will have to get a parent or guardian to sign a permission slip that affirms he or she is permitted to volunteer. You will get this permission slip from an organization that wants you to volunteer.
Make sure all team members understand that they must be on time for a volunteering event, and that they understand that they must follow the policies of the organization.
Group Volunteering Is Expensive -- But Who Pays Those Costs?
You may be asked to cover some of the costs associated with your group volunteering experience, especially if this group volunteering experience is being created especially for your group. A staff person from a nonprofit, or more than one, may have to spend a lot of time coordinating this group volunteering event for you. Who is going to pay for that person's time to do all of the coordination needed? There may be equipment needs as well: bags, tools, gloves, trucks, gas for those trucks, etc. Who is going to pay for all that equipment and materials? Talk with the organization about how many hours they will spend coordinating this activity for you, and what equipment and materials will be needed, and consider how your group could cover some or all of these costs.
Where to Find Group Volunteering Opportunities
There are many web sites that post volunteering opportunities in the USA, and some of these assignments can be done by groups:
Ask group members to contact nonprofit organizations they have a relationship with to ask about potential group volunteering activities as well.
Go to a search engine such as google.com and type in:
You can also call organizations directly, based on your group's interests.
Nonprofit theaters and performing arts centers are often in need of ushers in the evenings and on weekends; you not only get volunteer hours, you get into a show for free! Call local nonprofit theaters, including community theaters, to see if they need ushers and when your group could participate. Local, non-professional/amateur theater companies welcome volunteers in a variety of roles, from selling tickets to performing on stage.
Volunteer as a group to support UNICEF. UNICEF's online Volunteer Center provides activity toolkits and speaker resources to help you conduct awareness-building and fundraising activities in your community.
Establish an American Red Cross Club at your high school or association to help specifically with emergency shelters, including emergency warming shelters for the overflow from homeless shelters on days and nights that are at or below freezing (and unlike most homeless shelters, these often allow the homeless to bring their pets). All members would go through the volunteer orientation for your local chapter of the Red Cross and the training to help with emergency shelters. Find your local chapter of the American Red Cross and look at their web site for information about volunteering.
Call your local or state historical society and/or the government department that is in charge of cemeteries and ask if there are rural cemeteries or neglected historical cemeteries your group could help clean up. There are thousands of such cemeteries all over the USA, and it's very likely there is at least one in your country. Do not clean up any cemetery without the express, written permission of the appropriate government office.
Call nearby city, state and national parks and ask if there are volunteering opportunities for groups. Or visit your city or state park and look for something that needs to be done, and then contact the park to propose the idea (never undertake a volunteering activity without the park's permission!). State parks often have one-day volunteering opportunities throughout the year. Call your nearest state park for more information. You can also create your own volunteering activity and propose it at a state park. For instance, you could organize a large group of volunteers to remove invasive plants in a designated area, working with your county extension office or city or state parks officials (always get permission first!). Volunteers should receive a briefing on why invasive plants are bad and what they can do after the event day to help keep invasive plants out of the community. Another example: when I was at the Lewis and Clark Trail State Park in Washington state, I noticed an information panel behind the park's camping facilities, and on closer inspection, it turned out to be information for the start of a small hike to show the edible plants in the park. But the information was quite faded, and the information needed an update. What a great opportunity for a group of volunteers! And what about creating such a trail and display in a state park near YOU? Call or stop by your local state park and propose the idea.
Contact the Girl Scouts of the USA council office that serves your area and see if there is a Girl Scout day camp or single event in your area that your group could help with as volunteers. Each group member would need to register as a volunteer on the web site for your local council, and then you need to look for day camps or single events where you could volunteer. You need to sign up to volunteer at least two months in advance for many events -- sometimes more. Day camps need people to lead hikes, lead or help with craft-making (the crafts are usually already defined, but your recommendations would also be welcomed), lead singing, cook, make posters for the event (with song lyrics, directing girls to craft tables, telling them how to clean up after the event, etc.) and staff the registration table at the start of the event, among many other activities.
Your group could put together a "badge day" event so that Girl Scouts in your city could earn a badge in one day, in just a couple of hours. You would need to
You can explore these volunteer "vacations" and see if you could book an entire group, but note that some require you to pay your own transportation, accommodation and food costs, plus a service fee:
For the Group Volunteering Experience
After the Experience
A few days after completion of the group volunteering endeavor, ask all group members about their experience. Bring them together for lunch for an informal discussion, or have all group members complete a survey on SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang. What did they like? What did they learn? What do they wish they could have done that they didn't get to do? What do they wish had been different? What do they hope for the next time? Share these results with the organization that hosted you, as well as the organization or company that sponsored you. Again, if you are volunteering to earn a particular amount of hours, post-event meetings and activities such as this count as part of your volunteering hours.
If you are an organization or program looking to create group volunteering activities, see this detailed resource on Creating Group Volunteering Activities (it's also worth reading if you are wondering why group volunteering is so hard to find).
If you found this page helpful, let others know:
How to Find Volunteering Opportunities, a resource for adults who want to volunteer
Using Your Business Skills for Good - Volunteering Your Business Management Skills, to help people starting or running small businesses / micro enterprises, to help people building businesses in high-poverty areas, and to help people entering or re-entering the work force.
How to Make a Difference Internationally/Globally/in Another Country Without Going Abroad
Details on how to quickly fill a community service obligation from a court or school
Ideas for Leadership Volunteering Activities
Donating Things Instead of Cash or Time (In-Kind Contributions)
Helping People Address Their Problems with Plastic
Ideas for Funding Your Volunteering Abroad Trip
Details on volunteering abroad (volunteering internationally)
© 2010-12 by Jayne Cravens, all rights reserved. No part of this material can be reproduced in print or in electronic form without express written permission by Jayne Cravens.
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