These days, many teens feel pressured to perform for just about everything. Not only do they feel the need to make stellar grades and maintain an outstanding extracurricular record, but they also feel pushed to volunteer abroad or in an otherwise exotic or unusual locale, which can cost them loads of money.
While volunteering abroad can be a life-changing experience, teens should know that it’s not essential. In fact, a recent Harvard-based report actually encourages teens and college admissions boards to remember that it’s not the exotic land that distinguishes teens’ service; rather, it’s the sincerity with which a project is chosen and the consistency with which it is performed.
With that in mind, we put together a list of budget-friendly volunteer ideas, which teens can easily do – and commit to – in their own communities.
Organize a Monthly “Adopt a Cause” Drive
Show some initiative by organizing a monthly collection for an adopted cause. Coordinate a group, and plan to sponsor a different cause each month. Use your school’s communication methods to educate students on the cause and explain how they can donate. You can collect such items as clothes for a homeless shelter, baby items for a women’s shelter, books for a children’s home, or canned goods for a food bank. Imagine the good you could do within arm’s reach of your own community, and at no cost to you!
Use Your Skills: Be a Virtual Volunteer
Did you know that nonprofit organizations across the country need virtual volunteers? Virtual volunteers are sometimes called remote volunteers or online volunteers, who complete tasks for organizations from their own homes. Virtual volunteers aren’t always computer gurus, although such pros are needed; virtual volunteers also fill such needs as graphic design, research, writing, fundraising, and more. Thousands of virtual volunteer positions are posted on VolunteerMatch, and we also post a monthly snapshot of them here on our blog. Becoming a virtual volunteer is a unique way to lend your skills to a good cause.
Tutor in Your School
Does one subject in particular come naturally to you? Do you understand it easily? Do you know someone else like you? Organize a group of volunteer student tutors who meet regularly after school to tutor other students. You’ll be helping other students succeed in school, saving their parents a ton of money in tutors, and forming positive peer-to-peer relationships in the process.
Use Your Hobbies: Create Masterpieces to Comfort Others
Do you sew or knit? Even though you call it a hobby, several organizations are out there who need you! Project Linus, an organization that provides handmade blankets to ill or traumatized children, could use your knitted, crocheted, or sewn blankets for beneficiaries around the country. The American Heart Association also runs the Little Hats Big Hearts program, which provides knitted or crocheted hats to newborns, to promote heart-healthy lives. Organize a group, and let your hobbies comfort those in need.
Volunteer for a National Organization
Many nationally recognized organizations are looking for teenaged volunteers to mentor youth. Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club, Best Buddies, Special Olympics, and Teen Lifeline have chapters around the country, and their reputations are respectable nationwide. Becoming a regular volunteer at any one of these organizations would not only benefit those in need, but teen volunteers would likely experience some major personal growth as well.
Use Your Talents: Serve the Elderly
Nursing homes can be a lonely place for many elderly residents. Consider organizing a group of talented volunteers who regularly visit an area nursing home to share their talents. A group of musicians could perform, sharing joyful tunes in the lobby or stroll through the hallways to provide gentle music to bedridden residents. Talented artists could volunteer to set up easels in a main gathering space or outside. They could draw or paint residents, the landscape, or something from their imagination. Volunteering to share your talents could brighten residents’ days and lead to treasured conversations.
Caring for Family at Home
It’s important to remember that not all teens have the flexibility to volunteer outside the home. Extenuating circumstances require some teens to keep house and care for their younger siblings at home. Some might worry that their inability to participate in traditional volunteering will be a problem for college admissions; but, they can rest assured, because colleges acknowledge that teens’ regular caring for family at home is a valuable form of volunteering.
Hundreds of summer camps run in your community every summer – maybe even thousands. Consider becoming a counselor for a camp that focuses on your area of interest or your skill set. You’ll be able to share your passions and skills while mentoring youth in a naturally enthusiastic setting. Going back every summer, like many of the campers, will afford you an especially great opportunity to make a lasting impression on children’s lives.
Did you know that VolunteerMatch has thousands of volunteer positions available? You can go to their web site and search according to a cause, area of interest, and even your age. You can also select a location, or indicate that you prefer to volunteer remotely.
Remember, as a volunteer, you don’t need to break the bank. Find a volunteer opportunity that interests you, where you can focus on simply serving, not on how much the opportunity is costing you.
Learn more about how our free-to-download app can help you track the good work you're doing in your community by clicking the link below!