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Direct service volunteering

When people picture volunteering in our communities, direct service is typically what comes to mind.

What's direct service?

Direct-service volunteers are the most visible — delivering food boxes, shelving books in a library, building playgrounds. Whether it's in an office or somewhere out in the woods, direct service volunteer roles are all about getting involved in hands-on, tangible ways.

For many people, direct service is an ideal way to volunteer.

Why choose direct service volunteering?

  • You can serve at the core of an organization's mission; for example, if you're thinking of volunteering for a homeless shelter, one of the direct service projects that might immediately come to mind is serving meals or making beds.
  • You can jump in to lend a hand and to get to know an organization, issue, cause, or population served — an entry point that can help you determine what you might want to do next, either as a volunteer or with your career.
  • You can quickly see the results of your labors (an example: if you spend your day job doing more behind-the-scenes or capacity building types of work, it can be incredibly rewarding to finish painting a wall or to walk a dog at a shelter).

Direct service roles take skill

While there will likely always be a need for folks to take on such general-skills tasks like cleaning up parks and taking tickets at events, direct service volunteer positions also include skilled activities like:

  • Teaching workshops at a community center
  • Leading tours at a museum
  • Collecting data as part of a wildlife census
  • Serving as a translator for recent immigrants at a social services agency
  • Remember that homeless shelter we mentioned before? In addition to assisting with providing meals and a place to sleep, direct service volunteer roles might include creating or joining a team of adult literacy tutors to partner with and provide support to local residents.

While direct service volunteer activities will vary in difficulty—including whether you'll need any training before getting started—and time commitment, many of the volunteer gigs that you can sign up for one-time only or to show up episodically will likely fall in this category.

So if you've been looking for a way to lend a hand and get some dirt under your fingernails (either literally or figuratively), consider direct service opportunities.

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