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13 Popular Types of Volunteering Work

Volunteering helps people serve others while providing tremendous health benefits. The Mayo Clinic advocates for volunteering to reduce stress levels. It is a proven natural method to release dopamine and calm the nerves. For maximum benefits to both the nonprofit and the person, the key is to link the right types of volunteering work to the right volunteers. 

In the age before the Internet, volunteers helped with very specific tasks. They helped put food and relief baskets together for those in need, they helped with school and church fundraisers, or they volunteered time to help with events and programs at local charities. 

These are all still valid and extremely popular types of volunteering. Yet technology has made it possible to engage volunteers in different ways, from home and even from the office. 

What is important is to consider the most favored types of volunteering first. Then you can discover how different technology tools, like volunteer management software, can support reaching your goals.  

We’ll start by looking at a few popular thematic cause areas for volunteering.

Environmental volunteer opportunities

The environment has become a top concern. A 2022 Gallup Poll found that 44% of people worry “a great deal” in regard to the environment. This means that they are eager to be a part of environmentally-focused types of volunteering.

Environmental volunteer opportunities

  1. Climate change. The state of the climate is the top concern for people worried about the environment, especially younger generations. About 69% of Gen Z’ers (adults born after 1996) are anxious about the changing climate. Also, 37% of Gen Z and 33% of Millenials (born after 1981) claim it as their “top personal concern” (Pew Research, 2021). What is interesting is that they want both off- and online ways to address the problem. Online activism such as social media advocacy, signing petitions, or carbon use tracking may be great ways to engage these younger generations. 

  1. Farm work. The popularity of health and wellness has increased the desire for fresh, local, organic foods and to be connected to where food comes from. Working on a farm can help relieve stress, which makes it one of the most popular types of volunteering. From joining a local gardening cooperative, where volunteers share a gardening space, to helping local farmers sell fresh fruits and vegetables through community-supported agriculture (CSA), volunteer opportunities for farm work abound. Gleaning, farm-to-table processing, food distribution, nutrition, and hunger related activities all fit into this pattern.

  1. Environmental conservation. Types of volunteering within the conservation space are diverse. They can include active participation such as helping with biodiversity inventorying. They can also include more desk-bound opportunities, such as helping with geographic information system (GIS) design and monitoring. 

  1. Permaculture projects. Permaculture is a holistic way of viewing our relationship to the earth. We can live harmoniously on a piece of property if we view our needs in concert with those of the natural world around us. Projects differ depending on geography, but include integrating different agricultural techniques while protecting wildlife and native forest.

Animal volunteer work 

People love to work with animals, so it is one of the most common types of volunteering. There are many different methods to helping animals. Knowing about the different types of volunteering opportunities first is a good way to choose an option. 

Animal volunteer work 

  1. Collaborate on animal farms. Livestock are amazing, sentient beings. “Cow cuddling” actually releases oxytocin, the chemical related to the nice feeling we receive from social bonding.  Supposedly the bigger the animal, the more good feelings arise! You likely have a number of animal farms around you that would welcome volunteer collaboration. Active opportunities might include mucking out stalls; milking cows, sheep or goats; feeding animals; rounding up eggs; and fixing fences and infrastructure. 

  1. Wildlife conservation. Conservation organizations often get up close and personal with animals. Bird banding is a great example that requires volunteers. It’s a critical method that ornithologists use to track migratory species’ health. This is probably one of the only ways you can hold a wild bird in your hand and release it back to nature. 

  1. Animal rescue and animal care. Animal sanctuaries and rescues usually rely almost entirely on volunteer support. Types of volunteering opportunities are diverse. They include walking dogs, socializing cats and other pets, and helping to feed and care for animals. 

Social sector volunteer work 

Probably one of the most common types of volunteering is within the social services sector. No matter where you are, or how much wealth your community has, people are always in need. Volunteers are searching for that oxytocin release, that good feeling from social bonding. While cows are great for some, people are better for others! 

Social sector volunteer work 

  1. Volunteering with young people. There are always young people who can benefit from a relationship with role models. One common need is daycare support. Nonprofits need help with watching children so that other volunteers and staff can work more effectively. Another popular way to work with children is through mentoring.  

  1. Teaching and education. There are dozens of types of volunteering in your community that involve teaching to improve education outcomes for children and young people. You can work as a volunteer tutor. You can read books to children at your local library. Also, you can support nonprofits who need specialized professionals to teach vocational skills with training sessions and workshops. Many of these opportunities can now be accomplished online through teleconference. 

  2. Community development. Helping local economies become more independent and efficient is a wonderful use of time. It helps everyone in the neighborhood. Types of volunteering work in community development can involve community organizing roles such as leading a group of volunteers to form a housing co-op. Another example is supporting local business owners with skills development to improve their operating efficiency. 

  1. Women's equity and gender empowerment. Supporting others supports us all. That’s why there are thousands of nonprofit organizations with a focus on supporting women and non-binary populations. Most communities in the United States have a domestic violence support system, which requires trained volunteers to serve as advocates. After initial training, volunteers can serve from home. Also, organizations supporting single mothers are prevalent but need support. They need volunteers to help organize and distribute donations and also provide house calls to evaluate the well-being of mothers and children. 

Healthcare volunteer work 

Along with helping hospitals and other established healthcare networks, there are many healthcare-adjacent agencies that provide much-needed types of volunteering opportunities.

Healthcare volunteer work 

  1. Volunteering work with the elderly. According to the Administration for Community Living, 16% of the U.S. population is elderly (65+ years old). Many of these seniors are living alone or far from family and need help with basic tasks. Nonprofits in your community or agencies through churches often have volunteer opportunities available for people who want to help. You can serve by checking in with seniors on a regular basis, providing company for them, driving them to the store or doctor’s office, or helping them with household chores. 

  1. Counseling. Types of volunteering opportunities in counseling are available for professionals or people who are willing to go through training. Peer-run organizations, like respites and substance abuse recovery centers, need help from volunteers who have lived through these experiences. After a certain number of training hours depending on local legislation, a peer is equipped to listen to and counsel others. 

Using technology to make the best of different types of opportunities 

With all the different types of volunteering opportunities, the question is how can we best match the right volunteers to the right opportunities? Fortunately, there are new technology tools available to help. 

    • Automated recruitment. Software can help you automate your volunteer recruitment processes. For example, Golden enables you to seamlessly integrate your contact lists from any number of CSR platforms. Then you can post opportunities and send them automatically to your different contact lists. The system also will automatically push your notifications to your volunteer base through text, social media, email, or whatever outlet works best. 

    • Capacity to use private and public settings. A tool like Golden helps you post opportunities to a core group of volunteers in a private setting or on a public group of potential volunteers. That means if you have a simple opportunity that anyone can help with, you can blast it. Any volunteer who uses the platform who is interested in these types of volunteering opportunities you post can sign up! At the same time, you can manage your trained, senior volunteers with conscientious messaging in private settings. 

    • Different time allocations for volunteering. Different types of volunteering also include preferred times and methods. Some volunteers like ongoing work, such as once a week at a certain time slot. Others prefer episodic work at certain times of the year. Sometimes it is best to offer opportunities for specific deadlines or open deadlines “on-your-own-time”. Software like Golden allows you to offer as many methods as you like, while still helping with volunteer hour tracking for your impact measurement. 

    • One unleft segment of the different types of volunteering is the venue and the nature of the event. You need a way to easily segment different opportunities by 1. how the opportunity is administered; 2. what kind of event is administered; and 3. why the event is administered. Is the opportunity virtual or in-person? Is it responding to a specific event, like a natural disaster, or is it holiday-themed? Do people need certain skills? Will they be working alone or with peers? Good software can help you set up these volunteering notifications, ensuring that you do not leave any unchecked boxes. 

    • Management of skills and credentials. You can easily qualify, maintain credentials, and assign membership of individuals into audiences, so that you can target each of these audiences with the right opportunities and control who has the ability to see and sign up for each. These tools are an easy way to help support professional mentorship, work in sensitive and regulated environments, and align individuals with each other for peer-to-peer mentoring.

    • Immediate access to start and run programs. Not all types of volunteering are predictable. Some come before, during, and after emergencies or other times of crisis. It’s important to have a system that is always on and that can work from any device - iPhone, Android phone, tablet, or desktop. It needs to work on any browser or operating system. It needs to be accessible from the field and track participation even when there is no internet connection. Most of all, this data needs to be accurate and secure.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s former COO, gave Golden’s platform the thumbs-up, saying she just loved the idea behind it! Why not give it a try?

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Making use of the right tools with volunteering

Considering all the types of volunteering, volunteer recruitment and management is much easier when you can integrate technology by helping you streamline your contact list integration. Another is supporting segmentation and automated recruitment depending on your types of volunteering opportunities. 

Volunteer management software can be a tremendous help in this space. The best example is Golden, the world’s most awarded volunteer platform. United Way, Charity Navigator, and Habitat for Humanity all depend on Golden for its ease of use, customizable features, and capacity for custom branding.