The Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Volunteering

Jennifer Fairley
May 10, 2022

Volunteering is not one-size fits all. 

Everybody has different interests, qualifications and levels of commitment that make some opportunities good fits and others less suitable. The different types of volunteering make it easy for those looking for opportunities to find something fitting for them, but it can sometimes be confusing navigating them all and figuring out what kind of volunteering is best for you.

We’re here to take away any confusion with our simple guide for different types of volunteering. 

Which one best suits you?

For more info on the types of volunteering and how to start an employee volunteer program, check out our Employee Volunteer Guide.

Formal vs Informal

Informal Volunteering

Informal volunteer opportunities are volunteer opportunities that are unstructured, and are typically unfunded and done in the local community.

Those involved in informal volunteer programs often see themselves as friends or members, rather than volunteers.

Examples of non-formal volunteer work includes neighbourhood watch, and litter clean-up.

Formal Volunteering

Formal volunteering opportunities are any volunteer opportunity that is structured and supervised. These types of opportunities often have specific procedures in place, may require training before starting, and are often overseen by a manager or supervisor to ensure successful completion. Formal volunteer opportunities often have specific goals and outcomes that can be measured, and ways to check for quality of services being completed.

Some examples of formal volunteer opportunities are helping with a nonprofit event, canvassing for a grass-roots cause, or volunteering at an animal shelter.

Types of formal volunteering

Skill-based projects

Skill-based projects are volunteer opportunities where the volunteer uses their skills, professional experience, and expertise to help a nonprofit with a specific project.

These projects are often vital for the nonprofit to fully reach their goals, but are often unable to be completed due to lack of trained staff and lack of funds to hire outside help.

Examples of skill-based projects are helping with a nonprofit’s marketing or social media efforts, designing a nonprofit’s website, or helping them with IT or web development projects.

Some examples of formal volunteer opportunities such as web developer, strategic advisor, or graphic designer. 

Strategic advising and Consulting

Similar to skill-based projects, strategic advising and consulting volunteers tend to have professional skills and experience that they use to provide advice and guidance to nonprofits.

Volunteers leverage their experience and knowledge to help nonprofits tackle particular problems, advise them on strategy, planning, internal processes and more.

Examples of strategic advising and consulting volunteer work include discussing nonprofit governance and inclusion, HR guidance, strategizing marketing campaigns, and financial and legal advice.

Governance or leadership

Governance or leadership volunteer work tends to involve on-going leadership roles within a nonprofit organization. They may help advise, lead the direction, strategy, planning, and decision-making of the organization that they’re a part of. These types of volunteer positions often require commitment of time. 

People in these types of roles often have years of industry experience related to the nonprofit cause and/or other relevant experience, and are typically passionate about the impact area.

An example of a governance volunteering opportunity may be as a Member of the Board or a particular Committee for a nonprofit organization. 

Dynamics

Dynamics are the way that volunteers interact with the volunteer opportunity, the other volunteers, and the nonprofit staff. 

In-person volunteering

In-person volunteering is simply any volunteering opportunity that is done in person. This is the type of dynamic that people traditionally associate with volunteering.

In-person volunteering may be the most common, but it also faces some drawbacks such as facilitating space, and nonprofits are often at the mercy of their location when it comes to finding volunteers. Less populated communities may find it more difficult to find the right volunteers. 

Online & virtual volunteering

Volunteering used to predominantly be done in-person, but this has changed due to the recent pandemic. Technology has made it possible to work and collaborate online, enabling volunteers to give and help from anywhere!

Online services like Zoom, Google, and Microsoft Teams allow collaboration and communication between organizations and their teams. This can be a win-win for both nonprofits and volunteers, as volunteer opportunities become more assessible to volunteers, and nonprofits get a larger (sometimes global) pool of talent to choose from when accepting volunteers. 

Individual vs Team Volunteering

Individual Volunteering

Individual volunteering is simply any volunteer opportunity that you can do as an individual. It can range from being an extra set of hands to a local nonprofit, to being part of a larger group of individual volunteers, such as web developer, strategic advisor, or graphic designer.

It’s also possible to be an independent volunteer working one-on-one with nonprofits and their staff such as with skill-based projects or a strategic advisor or consultant role.

Team Volunteering

Team volunteering is quickly becoming popular, especially within companies to build teamwork and culture.

Team volunteering occurs when a small group or team volunteers to takes on an opportunity for a nonprofit, bringing diverse talents to tackle road blocks for nonprofits.

Examples of team volunteering may be when a team designs and builds a website for a nonprofit, or by sharing industry experience and revamping the way the nonprofit does something such as their finances, HR processes, governance and inclusion, and even their marketing campaigns. 

Whatever your volunteering style may be, MeaningfulWork has something for everyone. Check out our opportunities here and find your meaningful match!