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Ask A Reporter: How Can I Find Volunteer Opportunities That Match My Skill Set?

Youth Leadership Councils help students create community solutions in their schools or neighborhoods with friends & supportive adults.
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Youth Leadership Councils help students create community solutions in their schools or neighborhoods with friends & supportive adults. NYC Service Facebook



Ask a Reporter is an occasional series about civic engagement in and around the city. Do you have a question about how you can make a difference in your neighborhood, city or state? What about voting, the elections or navigating civic life in New York? Ask us! We want to help you get involved by answering your questions.

Q:

I’m a tech worker in the corporate sector. How can I use my skills to help out? (More broadly, what groups out there could connect me with volunteer opportunities, based on my skills?)

A: We found three organizations worth checking out. (And if you know of any others, please share!)

According to NYC Service, 1,004,882 people in New York City volunteered in 2017, a 15 percent increase from the previous year. That’s a big number, but it makes sense. Volunteering is good for your community and your health. But many people would rather share what they already do best rather than be assigned random tasks. Here are three resources to help you find the best match:

1. New York Cares
New York Cares is an affiliate of the international service network, Points of Light. If that name sounds familiar, it's because the group’s founder, President George H.W. Bush, named it after his famous “thousand points of light” metaphor from his 1989 inaugural address. Currently, there are 250 Point of Light affiliates in 30 countries around the world.

New York Cares fills more than 200,000 volunteer positions each year by offering nearly 1,600 volunteer projects to choose from each month, according to Erica Lockwood, the organization’s Director of Marketing and Communications. Most of these volunteers are employed. The top three occupations are business/finance, arts/media and education. You can search their website for opportunities based on your skills and interests.

2. NYC Service
Another group that came into being after a president’s call to action, this time President Barack Obama’s in 2009, NYC Service is a self-styled “catalyst, convener, and capacity builder for volunteerism.” Paula Gavin, Chief Service Officer at NYC Service, tells Gothamist that folks who volunteer are happier, live longer and are more likely to advance in their careers. “We want everybody to have a chance to live the best life they can, and volunteers can help them,” Gavin said. NYC Service has several hundred opportunities to volunteer with nonprofits and city agencies.

3. Catchafire
Founded by ex-investment banker Rachel Chong, Catchafire is a for-profit company that’s a bit like Tinder for service opportunities. "We're matching what people do in their day-to-day lives with the opportunity to apply those amazing skills to a nonprofit that truly needs it," Chong told CNN Money. Check out their website and use the dropdown menu to choose your skill. Coaching? IT? Writing? There’s a lot there. Deepa Prasad, Product Marketing Manager at Catchafire, notes, “Nonprofits most commonly post requests for help in marketing and communications, Web design and development, and finance and operations and we work hard to make sure we match the right volunteers to these projects.” The only downside to Catchafire is you’ll have to do a little bit of work to find the opportunities in your area.

Two other nationally-focused organizations are VolunteerMatch and the Taproot Foundation. And if you know of any other organizations that help match skills with needs, let us know in the comments.

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