Before You Volunteer

It’s great you want to volunteer! Many will benefit when you do – the agency, the clients they serve and you. Now that you’re ready to find a perfect volunteer opportunity, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Time

  2. Skills & Interests

    • Why do you want to volunteer: Are you volunteering to meet people, to help others, because you are passionate about an issue, to gain professional experience or for a class assignment? There are a lot of reasons and no right or wrong answers. Knowing why you want to volunteer will help you get the most out of your experience.

    • What causes or issues are important to you: Is it poverty, children, the environment or a health issue?

    • What talents, experience or skills do you want to share: Volunteering can be a great opportunity to share what you already know; it can also be a great way to learn something new.

    • Do you want serve on a nonprofit board of directors: Nonprofits are governed by a group of knowledgeable and skilled volunteers from the nonprofit and for-profit sector. Find opportunities on the Board Connections section of this website.

  3. Personal Considerations

Ready to Go?

Search over 600 volunteer opportunities available to you on our search feature.


Group Volunteering

Mobilizing a Large Volunteer Group

The following questions will help you decide what best suits your group while meeting Milwaukee’s volunteer need:

Prior to Getting Started

  • What is the purpose? Why do you want to engage in a volunteer project?
  • What do you want to get from the experience?
  • When you close your eyes, what is the picture you have in mine?
  • Can you commit time and expertise to planning an event?
  • Can you commit dollars to accompany your volunteers?
  • How much lead time do you need to have a successful event?

Planning Stage

Community Considerations:

  • What are the needs in your community?
  • What causes or issues matter most to you?
  • What organizations in the community address these issues?
  • What community partners do you already know about that you would like to assist?

Group Considerations:

  • Would you like to learn something new as volunteers or share a skill you already possess?
  • What don’t you want to do as volunteers?
  • What people do you want to work with (families, children, people with disabilities, older adults, etc.)?
  • How many people are in your group?
  • How much time can you give?

Service Models

Now that you’ve identified community needs and your cause; as well as your group dynamic, it’s time to act! Below are two common service models:

Agency Projects

If you want a project which is ready-made, identify a local organization and call the volunteer coordinator. Remember nonprofits may not be able to accommodate large groups. Be flexible about the day and time and consider the needs of the organization.

Large group volunteer opportunities

Independent Projects

If you want to volunteer autonomously as a group, consider doing a park or neighborhood clean-up or a supply drive.

Supply drive volunteer opportunities


Corporate Volunteering

Corporate Engagement Opportunities

Since 1977, the Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee, a service of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee, has partnered with companies of all sizes and across many industries to engage their employees in volunteer events that make a real difference to the community.

Whether this is your first time at launching a community service event or you have a long-standing commitment to volunteerism, we have the experience, connections and mission to guide you every step of the way. We handle the details to ensure that your organization’s volunteer experience goes smoothly, is impactful, and is engaging and meaningful for participants.

How it Works:

We offer your company flexible, efficient and well-run volunteer experiences. We have ten years of experience producing custom service events for groups of 30 to 200 people in a single day, in partnership with Milwaukee nonprofits and schools.

Depending on your group size and other requirements, we will create opportunities that meet your specific needs. Projects can take place during the week or weekend, on a one- time basis or more frequently, and may include employees’ families, if desired. Based on your input, our team will plan the day(s), order supplies, handle set-up and logistics, and prep any employees who wish to serve as volunteer team captains. On the day of service we are on site to support your volunteers and make sure your engagement runs smoothly.

Examples of corporate service projects include:

  • Physically transforming indoor and outdoor spaces by painting, landscaping, building benches, and other projects

  • Custom on-site projects include food packaging for the hungry, hygiene kit packaging for those without homes, and other projects

  • Landscaping, trail clearing and other beautification efforts at public parks

  • Planting or harvesting crops at community gardens

  • Painting and fixing up youth facilities

  • Serving meals to those experiencing hunger or homelessness

  • Inspecting and sorting donated clothing and other items

Partnerships start at $1,500 for the production of a custom day of service engaging up to 30 of your volunteers. We make it easy for your company to volunteer. For more information, please contact:

Debbie Knepke
Corporate & Events Manager


Board Connections

You can make a valuable contribution to the community by sharing your time, ideas and expertise with a nonprofit organization, by serving on a board.

A few facts about nonprofit Boards:

  • Occasionally agencies require a candidate to serve on a Committee before serving on the Board of Directors.

  • Most agencies will ask for a donation from Board members based on personal means.

  • Serving on a Board commits you to the successes (and failures) of the organization.

  • Your skills and talents are valuable to the success of the agency you serve.

Information and Basic Responsibilities of Boards and Committees

Serving on a Nonprofit Committee

The work of a committee member is specific to the task of that committee and generally does not entail legal responsibilities. It is an excellent way to learn about an organization, its work, clients, leadership, reputation and organizational culture. You also have an opportunity to see how well your own personality, interests and skills mesh with the organization’s mission and vision. A committee position is a recommended first step to a Board role, both for the individual and the organization.

The Volunteer Center generally recommends placement on a committee prior to Board service. There are some exceptions, dependent on the experience and qualifications of an individual candidate, and/or the particular situation within an organization.

Board Types and Structures


Makes corporate decisions for an organization, sets policy and is responsible of financial matters. Generally referred to as a nonprofit’s Board of Directors.


Members use their expertise reviewing or planning materials; it is not decision making board.


This Board’s members are for name recognition, financial assistance and making other resources available.


Members are typically part of a larger Board that tends to be for fundraising or special event planning.

Basic Responsibilities of a Nonprofit Board of Directors:

  1. Determine and carryout the organization’s mission and purpose.

  2. Select, support and assess the performance of the Executive Director.

  3. Ensure effective organizational planning.

  4. Raise funds and oversee resources effectively.

  5. Determine, monitor and strengthen the organization’s programs and services.

  6. Enhance the organization’s public standing.

  7. Ensure ethical and legal integrity and maintain accountability.

  8. Recruit and orient new Board members and assess Board performance.

Advantages of serving on a Board or Committee:

  1. Use your skills, interests and knowledge on behalf of an organization that provides for the common good–do your part to make this a better community.

  2. Learn interpersonal skills, organizational dynamics, legal and financial issues, specific program knowledge, community needs and strengths–the list is endless and directly related to your own ability and desire to learn.

  3. Broaden your community awareness as you learn about the work of the organization and meet others through your work on the Board.

  4. Broaden your circle of friends. Working together to solve problems is one of the most satisfying ways to build deep friendships.

Board Member Basic Job Description

General Expectations

  1. Know the organization’s mission, purpose, goals, policies, services, strengths and needs.

  2. Serve in leadership positions or undertake special assignments willingly when asked.

  3. Follow policies and procedures of the organization and of the Board.

  4. Track trends in the organization’s field of interest.

  5. Suggest nominees for the Board.


  1. Prepare for and participate in Board and committee meetings, and other agency activities.

  2. Ask timely and substantive questions while supporting the majority decision.

  3. Maintain confidentiality of the Board’s executive sessions.

  4. Speak on behalf of the Board when asked to do so by authorized persons.

  5. Suggest agenda items periodically for Board and Committee meetings, to ensure that significant policy related matters are addressed.

Relationship with Staff

  1. Counsel the Executive Director as appropriate and offer support.

  2. Avoid asking for special favors of the staff, without prior consultation with the Executive Director, Board President or Committee Chairperson.

Avoid Conflicts of Interest

  1. Serve the organization as a whole, rather than special interest groups.

  2. Avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and disclose any possible conflicts to the Board President in a timely fashion.

  3. Maintain independence and objectivity and do what a sense of fairness, ethics and personal integrity dictate.

  4. Never accept or offer favors or gifts from or to anyone who does business with the agency.

Fiduciary Responsibility

  1. Exercise prudence with the Board in the control and transfer of funds.

  2. Faithfully read and understand the organization’s financial statements and otherwise help the Board fulfill its fiduciary responsibility.

Fund Raising

  1. Give an annual gift according to personal means.

  2. Assist the development committee and staff by implementing fund raising strategies through personal influence with others (corporations, foundations, individuals).


Referred by the Court

If you have been ordered by a judge or recommended by a court or law official to complete community service hours select the most appropriate link below to begin your search:

Court ordered volunteer 18 and older
Court ordered volunteer 17 and under

After you have found a volunteer opportunity you are interested in, contact the person listed on the opportunity to discuss your community service requirements.

Court ordered volunteers should consider:

  • Plan ahead and have realistic expectations. Individuals will not be able to volunteer 40 hours in one week. Most organizations can use assistance between 5 and 10 hours per week.

  • Many nonprofit agencies serve vulnerable clients, this includes the elderly, children, people with disabilities and more. Consider your offense and search for an appropriate volunteer opportunity. If you have a violation in which you caused harm to another person you will not be accepted into a volunteer opportunity working with vulnerable clients, in this case consider volunteering for an environmental agency.

  • The agency may ask you to come in for an interview, do a background check and orientation. Plan on one to two weeks before volunteering can begin.


Student Volunteers

Community Service Graduation Requirements

Begin your search for volunteer opportunities to complete your community service graduation requirements here:

Volunteer opportunities for youth, 17 and under without adult supervision

After you have found a volunteer opportunity you are interested in, contact the person listed on that opportunity and discuss your graduation requirements with them.

Plan ahead and have realistic expectations. Individuals will not be able to volunteer 40 hours in one week. Most organizations can use assistance between 5 and 10 hours per week.

Benefits of Volunteering as You Plan for College

Impress Admissions Officials

  • How do you stand out? There are many high school students applying to college with impressive academic records, GPA’s and standardized test scores. What you choose to do outside of the classroom matters.

  • Volunteering is a great way to show you not only care about the community, but also are able to manage your time well enough to balance a volunteer position with your other commitments.

Earn Academic Credit and Scholarships

  • There may be community service scholarships available to high school students.

  • Keep in mind your volunteer history as you search for college admission and scholarships. It will make an impression on school administrators.

  • Volunteer experience may also boost your financial aid package. There are scholarships and grants out there which list community service as a prerequisite.

How to be a Successful Student Volunteer


  • Why do you want to volunteer? Would you like to meet new people? Get a good feeling from helping others? Complete a classroom assignment? Fulfill a graduation requirement?

  • What do you care about? Is it hunger? The environment? Animals? Illness? Something else?

  • What kind of volunteer work is right for you? Do you like working with people/ Computers? Do you want to try something new?

  • What about your future career? Do you want to be a teacher? Maybe you could volunteer to be a classroom tutor or a book buddy. Want to work in a restaurant? Maybe you could volunteer to serve lunch at a homeless shelter.

  • How much time do you have to volunteer? It’s better to start slow at first. You can always add more hours once you feel comfortable with your volunteer tasks.


  • Ask your parents or teacher for help getting started. If volunteering is new to you, it might be easeri at first to volunteer with your family or a friend.

  • Ask an adult to go with you at first until you know how to do all the taks. Ince you are comfortable, then you can be on your own.

  • Ask the agency if they can make any accommodations you need so that you can do your volunteers work.

  • Nonprofit agencies may have questions too. You may be asked to fill out an application and be interviewed. You may need to get your parents or guardians signature on documents.

  • Once you’ve started volunteering, don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help along the way. If you’re not sure how to do something, just ask!


  • Be responsible. Show up on time and follow through with the tasks you are assigned.

  • Be open to new experience. Sometimes your volunteer work may not be exactly what you expected, but it will certainly be an opportunity to learn.

  • Stick with it. Stay with your volunteering for a reasonable amount of time. Even if the first day is rough, give it a chance. Express your concerns to the volunteer manager.

  • Bring your heart and your sense of humor to your volunteer service, along with your enthusiastic spirit! What you’ll get back is immeasurable.


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