Volunteering to help clean up local parks or feed the homeless is a feel-good thing to do, plus it helps your community. You may not know that there are many other ways to volunteer where you can get more material benefits, too. In some cases, you might see shows for free or get discounts, or gain knowledge and experience in a field that matches your passion.
If you are tight on cash, but still want to live a rich, full life, consider these types of volunteer opportunities, available in most metropolitan areas across the country:
- Live theaters and ballet companies often have opportunities for volunteers to usher during performances, hand out programs, assist with special events, distribute posters in the community and greet patrons at performances. Volunteers sometimes get a behind-the-scenes look at the production. At Seattle Repertory Theatre, volunteers see the show for free. Volunteers for the St Louis Ballet receive free passes to a dress rehearsal before opening night.
- Opera companies engage volunteers as supernumeraries or extras in non-singing parts. They may play roles as guards, sailors or townsfolk, according to the needs of a particular production. It’s often not a glamorous job, but you might get onstage, and will surely soak up all of the backstage excitement. At the San Diego Opera, in addition to supernumeraries, other volunteers help opera staff with projects, events and backstage tours.
- Zoos and wildlife parks are the perfect volunteer opportunity if you love animals. Volunteers usually have to go through a training program, don’t handle animals and may be asked for a long-term commitment. But you’ll gain a lot of knowledge and may lead tours or get the chance to help at special events. Denver Zoo volunteers have a variety of opportunities, and receive discounts on food and gift purchases. At Fossil Rim Wildlife Center (between Fort Worth and Austin) in Texas, volunteers give tours, help with educational programs, assist in the Children’s Center or use their special skills to do office work, paint or help build exhibits.
- Fashion Week offers a great experience for volunteers interested in a career in events, fashion, media or marketing. New York Fashion Week may be the most coveted Fashion Week volunteer opportunity.
- Botanical Gardens often have volunteers work alongside expert staff, providing many opportunities for learning. You’ll help with special events such as plant sales and generally work outdoors. At the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, volunteers must join ($65/year), but have the opportunity to gain expert knowledge of desert horticulture, sell memberships, greet visitors, work at special events and lead tour groups.
Whatever the more tangible benefits, volunteers always get to have fun, meet new and interesting people, gain knowledge and experience and pursue their passions in rewarding ways.