25 Off-Campus Places to Volunteer in College

No Matter Your Interests, There's Something for Everyone

Alright, so you've made the decision to volunteer somewhere off-campus after figuring out that volunteering in college is right for you. Your next big decision: Where exactly to go.

Figuring out which kind of organization or cause reflects the values you cherish most is a great place to start. After all, the rewards of volunteering go both ways in a good volunteer relationship!

25 Off-Campus Places to Volunteer in College

1. An animal shelter. If you love animals, any local shelter can be a great place to volunteer your time.

And since many college students don't get to see animals (other than the rogue squirrels running around campus) that often, you just might find yourself needing some TLC as much as the animals you're helping.

2. A homeless shelter. It can be easy to lose one's perspective while in college. Volunteering at a homeless shelter can be a good way to give back while also gaining a new outlook on all you have to be thankful for.

3. A women's shelter. While you may need to go through some formal training before being allowed to volunteer at a women's shelter, they are nearly always understaffed and appreciative of reliable volunteers. You can help out women (and often their children) who are trying to get out of unfortunate situations in trying circumstances.

4. A local school. Chances are your college or university is located relatively close to an elementary school, a junior high school, or a high school.

See if they're taking local volunteers to help with things like after-school programs, fundraising events, or other special projects. It's a great way to help your surrounding community while having a good time.

5. A hospital or other medical facility. Volunteering to do something in a medical setting can be helpful to those you're serving -- and yourself, if you're considering pursuing a career in medicine.

You'll gain important skills and insight into how things work while also making a difference in the lives of those who need a little extra help.

6. An organization serving veterans. No matter where you live, there are people around who have served this country -- and made great sacrifices while doing so. Check with the local VA or other organization serving America's veterans to see where and how you can help.

7. An organization helping people with their finances. If you're good in math, business, or economics or just want to help people get their finances in order, consider working somewhere that offers financial services to the community. Your ability to help people set a budget, to explain credit, and to generally provide advice and training can make a major difference.

8. A classic "soup kitchen." Lots of places serve food to those in need. And such places can be the perfect place for college students to volunteer, as they run are open during hours that (hopefully!) won't conflict with your class schedule.

9. A local non-profit sports organizations. If you played a sport when you were younger, you know how much fun it can be -- and how much sports organizations rely on volunteers.

Consider being a coach, a referee, or even just an assistant of some kind. You'll make a difference while getting exercise with lots of fun folks.

10. A mentoring program. You don't need to be amazing to be a mentor; you just need to be you. After all, you're someone who's earning a college degree, right? Check out local mentoring programs to see how you can make a big difference in someone's life.

11. A literacy program. Think of how different your life would be if you were illiterate or just someone who really struggled with reading. Then think of how you can give back to folks who might be struggling with these same issues.

12. A kids' exercise program. There are a lot of organizations out there that focus on fitness and health, especially for kids. See how and when you can volunteer with an organization that will provide exercise, fun, and tons of laughs.

(After all, when's the last time you played kickball?!)

13. An environmental organization. If protecting the environment is something you hold near and dear, see how you can volunteer for an environmental organization during your time in school. There's undoubtedly an organization that will allow you to give back, care for the earth, and still maintain your demanding college schedule.

14. An organization that works with prisoners. Working with prisoners or former prisoners can admittedly be a little intimidating -- but it can also be highly rewarding.

If there's a prison or jail in your community, check our organizations that provide services to inmates. You might surprise yourself with what you can do!

15. A community garden. After all the time you spend in classrooms, in labs, and in front of your computer, getting your hands dirty might be just what you need. Conversely, of course, a community garden near your school may be looking for someone just like you. See what kind of community garden initiatives are going on and when and how you can help out.

16. A local co-op. From grocery stores to gardens to bookstores, local co-ops provide great experience -- both for their customers and for their volunteers. Find one that promotes a mission and/or value you hold important, too. Even as a volunteer, you might be rewarded with services the co-op provides in exchange for your volunteer work.

17. A clean-up organization. From polluted beaches to hiking trails littered with trash, there are -- unfortunately -- a lot of places that need to be cleaned up.

And in order for those places to be cleaned, volunteers need to get together and help out. Volunteering for a clean-up organization can work well if you have a very tight college schedule and can only volunteer once a month or whenever the need arises.

18. A relief agency. You can go local or you can go global, but volunteering for a relief agency (e.g., American Red Cross) is a great way to go.

They often have a lot of positions for volunteers, meaning you can be a little pickier about what works best for you.

19. An arts program. If you're a gifted artist or just enjoy exploring your creative side, see what kinds of organizations are in your surrounding your community that help others be creative, too. You can teach painting, dance, acting, or even work with a troupe to provide free performances to community members.

20. A political organization. Volunteering for a political organization can be especially fun during a major election year (e.g., during a presidential election). But even if you're only involved in local politics, you can learn a ton about how democracy really works on a day-to-day basis.

21. A religious organization. True, you can attend religious services or go to events on your campus. But volunteering with a religious organization can really connect you to a community you might be missing while also providing you with some amazing volunteer opportunities.

22. A community health organization. If you're at all interested in the health professions, volunteering with a community health organization can be a great way to learn about different fields, to get some experience, and also to help out those in need of information, resources, services, and direct care.

23. A get-out-the-vote initiative. Many get-out-the-vote initiatives and community organizations are not associated with political parties (think Rock the Vote); they simply want to make sure that every eligible voter in the community is registered to vote. You can help canvas neighborhoods and do community outreach in a way that can lead to major change in the next election.

24. A place that provides legal services. For many people, legal services are simply too expensive to be accessible. If you're interested in becoming a lawyer (or just in working in law), see what organizations are in your surrounding community that provide low or free services. You don't need a law degree to volunteer and help out.

25. Anything/anywhere specific to your local area. Are parents banding together to try to get a levy passed that will provide much-needed money to local schools?

Is a local beach being threatened by private developers? Does a local school need help raising money so they can upgrade their playground? Think locally if you're looking for somewhere to volunteer but aren't set on a certain kind of project. You'll meet local folks and make a difference in your community in a way that definitely hits close to home.