Many students often mistakenly believe that nonprofit organizations are willing to accept any kind of help that comes along because the groups use volunteers. That isn't exactly the case, which is why getting valid nonprofit training is tougher than one might imagine.
- Know what you want to gain from the experience. Many nonprofit groups work with sympathetic groups, such as battered women, the terminally ill, or children. Start your search with a clear list of your goals for nonprofit training. Some of these groups will want you to do menial tasks continually, and you'll be tempted because you believe in their group. You may find, however, that you are spending significant time on these projects without learning anything valuable, which is why starting with your a list of goals is important.
- Determine the number of hours per week or month that you can devote. Decide whether you'd prefer to give the same block of time each week or if you need something more flexible. Are you searching for a predetermined opportunity, or would you like to create your own path? These types of decisions will affect the training you can get.
- While checking with your university is a great idea, many schools don't provide good information on non-profit training. Most career services offices focus on "high-dollar" internships and cooperative work agreements, often for students in business and engineering. Definitely consider contacting career services for advice but don't rely on their knowledge of local non-profits as exhaustive.
- Look in your local yellow pages for nonprofit organizations or social service organizations. Write down groups that interest you or whose purpose you do not know. Find out about these groups first. They will be the largest in your area and likely have volunteer opportunities mapped out.
- Do searches online for groups in your city in the fields that interest you. Go to any websites you find to do preliminary research. Many sites will give you an idea of whether or not you will be a good fit.
- When you have selected a small number of organizations that you think will mesh with your own goals and ideals, then prepare to contact the groups. You may contact them via email, but telephone calls are better. Prepare basic statements before you make the calls. Know why you want to help, what you think you can do, and why you picked that organization.
- As you call each organization you have listed, ask all of the questions you have regarding how you can help. Keep in mind that some organizations will have a better idea than others. That may be because they've prepared to have volunteers to come in. Other organizations, however, can tell you their needs, and you can fill in the holes that you find interesting.
- Explain to the person you call that you are looking for nonprofit training and explain why. If you are interested in how the financing works, perhaps they will permit you to serve on the fundraising committee. If your interest is in the recruitment of new people, then ask to assist there. Remember that while almost every volunteer has stuffed envelopes before, that's not all you want to do in an organization.