Find the Time (and Energy) to Volunteer

By Paula Fitzsimmons

If you want to stand apart from other applicants, having volunteer experience on your resume is essential. Look at it from the employer’s perspective: All things being equal, wouldn’t you be more inclined to choose the candidate who took the extra step? Volunteering shows you care – that you’re willing to give your time to something greater than yourself without expecting something in return.

Read more about how volunteering can help your animal protection career.

But what if you’re already overbooked? Finding the time for yet another obligation may not seem too appealing.

Finding a volunteer position, and excelling at it, really doesn’t have to be that daunting. Try these tips to fit volunteer work into your schedule . . . without draining your energy.


Find four “hidden” hours each month

It’s amazing what you can do with just four hours a month. In this period of time, you can . . .

• write or have started on an article for a nonprofit’s publication;

• work two two-hour shifts at your local animal rescue or sanctuary – my local rescue and wildlife rehabilitation center offers such flexible shifts;

• secure ten merchandise donations for an organization’s silent auction.

I’m convinced most of us have four (and more) free hours buried somewhere in our schedules. Finding it requires looking objectively at how we spend our time. I’ve become more mindful of my time spent on Facebook – 20 minutes here, ten minute there can add up.

When you take stock of how you spend your own time, you may come to realize you’re not as “busy” as you think. I was creating these massive to-do lists, then complaining I was too busy. I still have a lot to do, but also realize I have the power to be more realistic when creating my lists.

A growing number of articles, including one from The Huffington Post and another from Medscape, are (thankfully) addressing the illusion of busyness.

Where can you find the extra time . . .especially for something as important as building your career in animal protection?



Work according to your own timeline

There’s no rule that says you have to work a set schedule every week. Many organizations have volunteer opportunities that let you work according to your own timeline.

For instance, several years ago I collaborated with my local humane society on a care manual for people adopting companion birds. I worked on it as I had time – if I had an extra hour or two, I worked on the manual. In just a few months, we had a document to be proud of – and something that (I hope) made a difference in the lives of birds and their adopted caregivers.

In my experience, most nonprofits are just happy to have the free (and qualified) help. They understand people work and have obligations; and most offer flexible options to accommodate this.

A search on yielded dozens of opportunities in my area – and each one included this verbiage: “It’s Flexible! We’ll work with your schedule.”


Pick something you enjoy

If you’re giving your valuable time for free to a nonprofit, you should be finding joy and meaning in your work, as well as gaining experience. It’s amazing how much less energy I seem to expend when working on something enjoyable.

What do you enjoy doing, and how can you parlay that into a volunteer position?


Work from home

Save the time it takes to travel to your local organization by working at home. Nobody has to know you helped craft that winning grant proposal while taking a break to watch your favorite television show or walk your dog.

There are so many different types of jobs you can do from home. Examples include . . .

• phone banking;

• writing donation request letters, press releases, grant proposals, manuals, articles, to name a few;

• designing an organization’s website;

• running an online auction.


It’s the quality of the volunteer position, and not necessarily the number of hours put in that matters. Find a position that energizes you, gives you much-needed experience, and that you can fit comfortably into your own timetable. Volunteering is essential – but it doesn’t have to feel like drudgery.

Coyote image credit (minus type): #34731536 from


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