Your Guide to Service & Volunteering at URI
Volunteering time in the community gives you a chance to make a difference and change lives, including your own. Here is a brief guide to help you select the best service and volunteering opportunity.
Where do you start?
We’ve highlighted three areas to consider when selecting a volunteer position:
- Values, Interests & Skills
- Schedule & Time Commitment
1. Motivations – Why are you looking to be engaged in the community? It is important for you to understand exactly why you want to volunteer and what you expect to get from the experience. Below are the most common reasons for volunteering and where to start:
“I just enjoy helping others and would like to meet other students feel the same” or “I have done service in the past and want to continue”
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to meet people with similar interests and values. There are many service related student clubs and organizations on campus. Check out the Student Leadership section to find a group or program that would be the best fit. If you are not interested in joining a group and want to find a more long term individual commitment then you can skip to “Find and Secure a Placement” below.
“I don’t know if I want to volunteer long term, I might just want to volunteer once or twice”
Check out the Feinstein Experience for one time service experiences offered every fall. You can also contact URI SAVES to learn about upcoming opportunities, ‘like’ Clearinghouse for Volunteers on facebook or visit the Service Opportunities section of the website.
“I am interested in Alternative Spring Break trips”
Great! The Feinstein office offers several options for participating in ASB trips. First is the URI SAVES & URI Habitat for Humanity ASB trip which brings 28-32 students to another part of the country to complete community service. Contact URI SAVES at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. The application process opens in the fall. The second option offered through the Feinstein office is the RI ASB trip which includes 10-12 students staying near campus during spring break and serving local RI agencies. Contact the Clearinghouse for Volunteers to learn more!
Several other URI offices and departments also plan ASB trips. Consider connecting with the URI Honors Program, Hillel, Interfraternity Council and/or the Catholic Center.
“I am interested in careers for the common good and finding a profession that serves the community”
There are more options than you might think for combining your passion to do good/make a difference and your desire to do well/be successful in a career. Contact Sarah Miller to set up an appointment to talk about options. You can also contact URI Career Services to learn more about finding a career that fits your values and interests.
“I am interested in Service Learning or earning credit for volunteer service”
There are many courses offered at URI that include required or optional service experiences in the community. Check out this list of Service Learning Courses. You can also consider enrolling in CSV 303 and completing volunteer service for pass/fail credit (1-4 credits). Contact Sarah Miller for information about CSV 303.
“I want to stay engaged on campus and become a student leader” (Civic Engagement Leader, Service Intern, etc.)
The best way to learn about leadership opportunities is to talk to the leaders directly! Check out the Student Leadership section to find out what programs exist then stop by the Clearinghouse for Volunteers to speak with the student interns or contact Sarah Miller.
“I have a service-learning requirement for a class” or “I have court appointed service”
If you are being asked to complete service as part of a requirement then give yourself enough time to complete a proper search for a service site and give the agencies you contact enough time to respond to your request.
Service Learning Course Requirement: Be sure you understand what is required of you to meet your class assignment obligation. Your instructor has selected to have a service learning requirement for a reason, so take advantage of this hands-on practical experience to put what you are learning the classroom to good use!
Student Life or Court Appointed Service: Review the requirements closely to ensure you meet all conditions especially if there are guidelines around the type of placement site (non profit) or if you will need a letter from a supervisor after your service is complete. Let the agency know these or any other guidelines and absolutely do so in a timely manner. For example, if a letter is needed do not call them the morning the letter is due.
2. Values, Interests & Skills – What type of experience are you looking for? Just like with any other experience, when you value the work, are interested in the issue, and/or are skilled at what you are doing then you usually enjoy the experience that much more. Here are some tips to ensure the opportunity you select is a good fit:
Create a list of the things you would like to include in your volunteer opportunity. For example:
- Issue – arts, environment, education or mentoring, health, human services, animals, children and families, advocacy or awareness, domestic violence, human rights/ social justice, policy reform, homelessness/poverty, etc.
- Determine why you are participating so that your expectations will be in line with what the agency or position is able to provide. For example, if you are looking to add an experience to your resume that relates to your future career path then you should only consider positions that give you that specific area of experience.
- Consider what are you really good at or what skills you would like to strengthen while serving. If you know that you are skilled at communicating with diverse groups of people then consider volunteering at the welcome desk at a volunteer center, hospital or family resource center. If you would like to gain experience working with children then narrow your search to education and mentoring programs.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the specific tasks of a volunteer! You are trying to find the right fit just as much as the agency is so ask questions to help you decide if it will be a good match! Not sure what to ask? Consider these:
- What is the typical day or shift like for a volunteer?
- Do I need any specific training and if so will I receive that training?
- What do you look for in a volunteer?
- Will I be volunteering alone or with other volunteers?
- Will my duties change at all?
3. Schedule & Time Commitment – how much time are you looking to commit to service?
- When selecting a site be honest and realistic with yourself and the agency about how much time you are willing to volunteer.
- Don’t feel compelled to just tell the agency what they want to hear! If you are only looking to volunteer once or twice a month, then don’t agree to volunteer for 2 hours every week.
- Don’t over commit to serve more than you are able because you might get burnt out or have to back out of the commitment. You could always ask for more time in the future if you find that your first
- Once you commit understand that the agency is depending on you. Be sure
Find and Secure a Placement
- Visit the Service Opportunities section of this site.
- Follow the directions on the top of the page to view Feinstein Experience events, search agencies by name or issue focus, utilize statewide and national search engines of opportunities or check out the list of ongoing opportunities sent to us by local agencies.
- Once you find an opportunity, contact the agency based on the contact information listed on the posting or connect with the ‘Volunteer Coordinator’ to start the process.
- If it is a one time opportunity, be sure you have all the information and details needed to be prepared for the project (don’t forget directions!).
- Formally accept the position and thank the agency for the opportunity
- Decline any other opportunities if you decide not to continue as a volunteer. Thank them for their time and consideration.
- Start Serving! If you don’t like a particular volunteer experience that’s okay! Just don’t let it stop you from serving. All organizations and volunteer opportunities will be different!
- Represent. Remember you are a URI student and as such representing URI when you are volunteering in the community. Follow the rules of the community placement, dress and act appropriately and do the best you can do in the position.
- Resume building: Being involved in service shows employers that you believe in making the world a better place and that you’re willing to sacrifice your time and energy for the betterment of others. Again, you can also visit URI Career Service (link) for advice or to have your resume reviewed.
If you have a long term volunteer experience related to your future career search then include it in your ‘Related Experience’ section
If you have multiple volunteer experiences consider a section called ‘Volunteer Experience,’ ‘Community Engagement,’ or ‘Community Leadership’
Use bullets and start each bullet with an action verb. Make sure you give yourself credit for all of your tasks and accomplishments! Don’t forget to mention trainings you received.
Here is a sample long-term volunteer description:
South County Habitat for Humanity, Shannock, RI September, 2011 – May, 2012
Build & ReStore Volunteer
- Demonstrated basic building and teamwork skills while helping to build 4 local homes
- Assisted in ReStore helping customers, managing register, and training new volunteers
- Educated community on Habitat mission while mobilizing new volunteers
- If you have limited space on your resume you could simply list the agency name, location and dates engaged:
South County Habitat for Humanity, Shannock, RI September, 2011 – May, 2012
- Internships: Being actively involved at your placement site may help you make contacts that lead to internships or possible future jobs!
- Networking: Those whom you work closely with will be able to lend a hand in connecting you with related causes and important people in various agencies! Remember to always as permission to list someone as a reference but don’t be afraid to ask!
URI Chaplains Association (Offers Alternative Spring Break opportunity)
URI Hillel (Offers Alternative Spring Break opportunity)
Below are some resources to get informed and engaged in our democracy (and register to vote). Make sure your voice is heard!
What does the future hold? Careers for the Common Good
Careers for the Common Good are socially responsible professions that benefit the greater good of society.
Online Resources to become informed, inspired, engaged and active:
CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
Great Books (These and many others are accessible in the Clearinghouse for Volunteers):
Be the Change! Change the World. Change Yourself. Edited by Michelle Nunn
Be Bold: Create a career with impact. By Cheryl L Dorsey & Lara Galinsky (www.bebold.org)
Our Time is Now: Young people changing the world. By Sheila Kinkade & Christina Macy
Don’t forget to “Like” URI Clearinghouse for Volunteers on Facebook to stay informed with volunteer opportunities, events, and Clearinghouse announcements!