You hear about the good work being done in your community, and you know much of it is being done by nonprofit groups in the area. But what does this mean, and how can you get involved? Below are 6 ways that I found have been the most successful for me and my journey connecting with nonprofits.
The best way to know what a nonprofit does is to volunteer. NPs thrive on (and are frequently dependent on) volunteers. At Blue Ridge Literacy, our mission (to support the achievement of life goals by providing opportunities to strengthen literacy skills to adults in western Virginia) is carried out by our volunteer tutors and teachers. Most nonprofits have one-time volunteer opportunities, too.
2. Get an internship
Whether it’s during the semester or during the summer, internships are great ways to develop skills, get a sense of how nonprofits work, and take on responsibility in projects that really matter to your organization. Nonprofits generally have a lot to do without an excess of resources; this means that instead of making coffee runs or staring at your Facebook page for three hours every day, you will be doing real work that your nonprofit needs done. Additionally, organizations who take interns want you to have a good experience and will have you define your own goals--this ensures you are getting the professional development you need.
3. Participate in community events
Chances are, the Program Director at Goodwill knows the Program Manager at the Rescue Mission who knows the Program Coordinator at Blue Ridge Literacy--we’re all connected. That said, if you attend an event sponsored by Local Colors, you will probably be able to connect with people from other local nonprofits, too. We are all working together to provide positive sustainable change for the populations we serve. Get to know us all!
4. Go to a conference
Conferences are number one for networking and professional development. They are typically two to five days where all the professionals in your field come together to present on the good work they are doing and brainstorm with all the other nerds interested in the same topic they are. These conference sessions will fill your brain with new ideas and energy. It’s also pretty much expected that anyone you sit next to will ask who you are, the organization you’re with, and what you’re interested in discovering--networking score! As a student, you can also save a little cash when registering for a conference (most have student rates).
5. Take advantage of your school’s career center
You know all those emails you get from Career Services? Look at them! The career center at your college or university is designed to be a tool for budding citizens of the world. Nonprofits, as well as other organizations, will let your school know when they are looking for interns or volunteers. Take advantage of this resource and stay up-to-date!
6. Follow us
Websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram--connect with local nonprofits through these sites! We take a lot of pride in what we do, and we try and share it as much as possible on these public forums. Following organizations you’re interested in will help you gain a better understanding of what they do. Depending on the size of the organization, they may even notice when you “like” or “favorite” their posts. (Brownie points!)