Dear PoPville – Looking for Volunteer Opportunities

Photo by PoPville flickr user quemac

“Dear PoPville,

I have had a really hard time finding volunteer opportunities. I want to volunteer very much, but almost all of the sites I’ve found have restrictions that I can’t fulfill: they take place during the work day, they need certain qualifications, they require a commitment of five days a week, they’re located at places where people like me without a car cannot easily access, etc. One nonprofit I used to volunteer for has a waiting list for volunteers at the only site I have access to.

I’m sure issues like mine have arisen in different PoP venues, so if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them. But what I’d really love is to challenge the PoP community to come up with a site that allows you to select certain parameters– neighborhood, days available, type of volunteering– and then spit out opportunities. I don’t know if it’s possible to make a site like that, but it would be awesome. People like me wouldn’t give up so easily and think that there’s nowhere for us to volunteer.”

49 Comment

  • ServeDC does just what you’re looking for, aggregate volunteer opportunities and let’s you search depending on your needs/qualifications. Check it out –

  • Kennedy Center….you can’t be flaky with them.

  • The DC Mayor’s Office has a volunteer opportunity database. The search parameters aren’t as detailed as what you’re looking for, but it still may be helpful:

    If you have any flexibility to be able to go into work at 10am one day a week, I highly recommend Reading Partners, You can help a child with reading and comprehension for just one 50 minute session, one time a week. The one I participate in runs from 8:40 – 9:30am, so I can get to my office by 10. Or, if there was a school with this program close to your office, perhaps you could help during your lunch time.

  • The Latino Student Fund has Saturday morning tutoring (~10am-12) during the school year at a building by the National Cathedral. Can you be a regular tutor or a floater tutor who only comes 1-2 times a month. Most of the kids are elementary school age. 1.5 hours of tutoring/homework and then 30 min of games. I had trouble finding something that worked with my schedule during the week, but this is a rare weekend tutoring opportunity. The most recent newsletter was asking people to recruit more tutors, so they are definitely looking for people. I think a lot of the high school aged tutors don’t come as regularly as they near the end of their own school year.

    If anyone in NoVa reads this, I HIGHLY recommend the Northern Virginia Literacy Council. Unfortunately I changed jobs so the location didn’t work for me anymore, but the classes were just fun. Amazing students, all adults so very focused on learning.

  • I volunteer for the National Park Service as a docent on the mall. It’s a really fun way to give back to the DC community, meet tourists, learn history and be outside. The hours are flexible (you’re required to volunteer 8 hours a month minimum) and there are a lot of good resources that NPS offers to its volunteers. You can find more information here:

    I also volunteer for the National Building Museum in one of their community outreach programs. Here is a link to learn more about that:

    Good luck!

  • Agreed. I’d love to volunteer more often by my schedule is really unpredictable.

  • Anonynon

    check out – 1 day a week commitment (6PM-8PM) and can also have a co-mentor if that is even too much of a commitment. Met a bunch of cool people that i have become close with. I would reccomend if if you like working with kids

  • I’ll throw Reading All Stars out there, as it seems to meet most of your requirements. Takes place most Saturdays from 10am-12pm, they encourage you commit to having good attendance as your students get more excited about it if they get to know you, but there is no strict attendance policy. You pretty much read with an elementary school student for 2 hours and that’s all you have to do. No experience required, just being able to read and pass a background check. Takes place at Harriet Tubman Elementary school which is a 5-10 minute walk from either Petworth or Columbia Heights metro.

    Here is their website:

    There you can find contact information and open house information for their programs

  • Check out the Capital Area Food Bank ( Volunteer opportunities during the day and weekend.

  • One thing you could do if you want to be helpful but know you need to work on your own time, is contact an organization you believe in and ask if there is any data entry, backoffice maintenance, phone calls to members, etc you could do from home or at their office on a drop-in basis. It’s less exciting than the community-oriented part of their work, but often it really needs to be done, and it doesn’t matter what time of day.

  • I’ve spent many years as a volunteer mentor for Capital Partners for Education – they’re a spectacular organization that helps local kids (high school age) with scholarships, academic and leadership training, and pairs each student with a mentor. It’s a very fulfilling experience, and I can’t praise the organization enough for doing a stellar job at what they do! The commitment generally is a two-year commitment where you are asked at minimum to touch base with your mentee on a weekly basis, and see them on a monthly basis. Essentially, it’s what is needed to build a lasting and trusting relationship with a teenager. Seven years later and I’m still very close to my mentee that I was paired with for four years.

  • epric002

    washington humane society has lots of different kinds of volunteer opportunities available, from shelter work, to running with dogs, to adoption events, special events, spay/neuter, etc.

    • I concur- the Washington Humane Society is a GREAT option. It takes a little while to get into their orientation session, but once you do that you can sign up for stuff immediately. Their adoption events are particularly great- they happen all over the city, so you don’t need a car to get to the shelter, and you can volunteer whenever you have time. Some volunteers come every weekend, others once a month or so. At the adoption events, you get paired up w/an adoptable pup- what an awesome way to spend a Saturday or Sunday!!

      • Agreed- Washington Humane Society is great! They have events on weekends and evenings, an easy online sign-up process, and a great staff. I have had several pleasant experiences with them. I also volunteer with Reading Partners, but they only offer sessions during the day. I would check with your employer, however- some HR departments will offer volunteer hours for social accountability reasons.

  • GiantSquid

    There’s a Volunteer Fair happening at the Hill Center in…May? I saw the signs while walking the dogs. I”m sure they have info on their website.

    • I went to that last year and it was disappointing. Most of the organizations didn’t show up. I think there were only about three representatives there for me to talk to.

  • lets you search for opportunities by keyword and location (either zip code or city). Also, check out for flexible opportunities…basically you choose a volunteer event, show up for it and help out; there are no longterm commitments and typically no specialized skills are required; some of the events are metro accessible and will be listed as such

  • A nonprofit I have donated to, not volunteered for, is the DC Diaper Bank. They collect and distribute diapers to families in need who can not afford them (among other things. ) Take a moment to think about a mother who can’t afford a full supply of diapers, is forced to stretch out the use of each diaper and not change her baby even when it has a dirty diaper, and how both the baby and the mother suffer, and you will realize what an important mission it is!

    Reading through their website and emails I think they are regularly recruiting volunteers, but I don’t know what the requirements are.

    • I volunteer with DC Diaper Bank and love it! The DCDB warehouse is in Silver Spring which isn’t exactly walkable from the metro, but I bet someone could coordinate to help get volunteers there, if interested. Week night and weekend and family-friendly opportunities. They even have a new wine/whine wednesday night volunteering session at the warehouse and diaper drives at Whole Foods locations all through May – The only requirement is a willingness to help out.

  • While I am digging all the ideas, do any of them come with a bottle of Yuengling, like in the picture?

  • I’d suggest getting on the waitlist of organizations you want to work with. I tried a lot of different places when I first moved to DC on a one-off basis and they were frequently disorganized and didn’t use their volunteers well. I’ve stuck with Miriam’s Kitchen for almost 9 years for good reasons – great staff, their mission, and how well they use the abilities of their dedicated volunteers (and you can go there before your regular workday). Other places to consider are local theaters, almost all use volunteer ushers and you just have to come about an hour before the show, then you get to stay and watch it too.

  • Food for All-DC meets every Saturday morning at 9:00 to pack groceries for home-bound residents in DC. They always need volunteers with cars to then deliver the food. No training, no commitments. It’s a fun and charitable way to meet people and learn about different parts of the city.

  • There is a volunteer fair happening on May 10 at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital called Volunteer Capitol Hill. There will be 35 organizations, including ServeDC, that will offer all kinds of volunteer opportunities, ranging from one-time projects to on-going commitments. Hill Center is at 921 Pennsylvania Ave SE, one block from Eastern Market metro. Here’s the website info:

  • I highly recommend a mentoring program, though this is only something you should do if you can commit for at least a year. The program I volunteer through (Community of Hope – facilitates matches between adult volunteers and young people in homeless or formerly homeless families. While many of the families do not live in metro accessible areas, some do. When and what you do with your mentee is completely up to the two of you, so this is ideal for someone with a changing schedule!

  • If you’re interested immigration issues w/women and families, there’s two things we are recruiting volunteers for right now this month. No experience or long term commitment required! One is a fast (women hunger striking on the mall) and the other is a big assembly. Bilingual skills (Spanish, Tagalog, or Nepali) helpful but not required. Email me! Tiffany (at) domesticworkers (dot) org

  • Surprised Food & Friends didn’t come up- I don’t think there’s an easier place to volunteer in the city. A shuttle that picks you up from the Metro (Ft Totten), they use online self-scheduling, have time blocks as short as two hours, and there’s a bunch of different tasks for varying levels of commitment (driving the delivery vans on the highest commitment side and chopping/preparing food on the lower end)– PLUS awesome volunteer appreciation events and generally awesome staff. One painless hour-long (I think) orientation and you’re good to go. Couldn’t be happier to volunteer there.

    • Food & Friends is great! They have an award-winning volunteer program and truly appreciate their volunteers. Fun staff too.

  • Try Back on My Feet! They are a non-profit that uses running to promote the self-sufficiency of people experiencing homelessness. They run 3 days a week at 5:45 am from various points in the city. The runs last until about 6:30 am and it’s a great way to give back, meet great people and work out.

    • I’m actually curious to hear more about Back on My Feet–Someone gave a quick announcement about it in a yoga class (specifically about training for a marathon) and honestly, it struck me as a terrible idea. I would wager that most people who lack a permanent home also lack health insurance – what happens when a participant is injured? It seems like an irresponsible model. If I were homeless, I would much prefer monetary assistance than to go on a jog–especially if I’m struggling with food security as well.

  • Boy, that photo is just screaming for a caption contest. Perhaps a new downward dog-park locator?

    As for volunteer opportunities, don’t forget about the rock Creek Park cleanup this weekend.

  • Almost all the branches of the DC Public Library have Friends groups run by volunteers that help support the library and make sure they can serve the community. The amount of time commitment varies a lot depending on what you want to do, but you don’t need a car. The Library itself also takes volunteers and assigns them to different activities as appropriate. As President of the Mt. Pleasant Library Friends group, we’ll take your help, but you might live closer to another branch.

  • I’ve worked for a variety of nonprofits, and I can emphatically state that your money is worth far more than your time. Especially since it sounds like you won’t be able to volunteer during times when volunteers are at a premium (during work hours), it would be far better for you to do one of the following: a) give your money to a highly rated local charity; b) work with your office’s HR dept to set up an office-wide volunteer day.

    People tend to forget that it costs nonprofits time and money to arrange volunteer opportunities. If you don’t have a specific skill (ie, medical, tax prep, etc), you very may well cost the nonprofit more than you bring in. This is especially true if you only volunteer on limited occasions and at specific times.

  • I’m on the Board of the Friends of the Soldier’s Home. We have lots of volunteer opportunities…most in the eves a few times a month where you can do things like be a host at Saloon Night, where we run a free bar with entertainment for the Residents of the Home, or assist with running festivals (July 4th celebration, Oktoberfest, etc)…and more. We’re a 15ish min walk from the Petworth Metro and there’s a Capital Bikeshare right there.

    Actually, we have Spring Fling coming up where we host games and a band and a dancing for the Petworth community and the Resident of the Home. Super chill, really fun events, you’ll be appreciated greatly and we have great organizers (if I do say so myself!).

    Take a look!

    www. friends of

    • hmm, i tried to get in touch with someone there to volunteer a couple years ago and never heard back. maybe will try again.

  • If you would like to mentor junior high students, the Higher Achievement Program is an awesome 2-3 hour per week commitment. (6-8pm one weekday evening with the kiddos and a bit of preparation time). Their website is

    I commend so many folks for wanting to volunteer and urge you not to give up too quickly. Compared to other cities I’ve lived in (especially overseas), I’ve found many great opportunities to volunteer in DC. They are certainly out there, and what a great forum to generate more ideas!

  • The Metropolitan YMCA’s are always looking for volunteers! We have a wide variety of needs– from administrative to child services, especially with camp right around the corner. Follow the link on to submit information and a coordinator will be in touch! It’s a really fulfilling cause to be involved with a non-profit that stands for youth development, social responsibility, and healthy living!

  • LUCKY DOG rescue!! If you like dogs! you get to go to adoption events (usually at a petco and about 2 hours) and walk a dog around and try to help get it adopted. No major commitment you can do it as often as you want, they send out emails about where events are held and you just register online. I always have a great time plus I get to hang out with a dog all afternoon. These dogs come from high kill shelters and are given a second chance– check out their site

  • N Street Village
    We are Family – the senior outreach

  • Try reaching out to non-profits! I started at SCRAP DC, a 100% volunteer run creative reuse center non-profit in Brookland, volunteering for them and after realizing that we could use a bit more organization in the volunteer wrangling area, I stepped up to the plate. I now coordinate volunteers for the organization and we welcome volunteers in any capacity they wish the help with! Mostly it is organizing the retail section, sorting through donations as well as helping out with special events and other activities.

  • On the topic of volunteering, are there any places that you can bring your kids with to volunteer? I feel like there must be ways to do this…maybe zoo events/fundraisers, or runs and walks that are fundraisers. Has anyone done this? I want to be able to volunteer but don’t want to take away from the limited weekend/evening time with my children to do that, plus I’d like to teach them about volunteering too!

  • I use to volunteer at Calvery woman’s service, it’s located right in Chinatown. They really need volunteers to close the doors, and stay over night. You stay in an office with a bathroom and a blow up mattress all available. In the morning you set out breakfast for the ladies and pass out the meds. It’s quite fulfilling since they spend so much money on people to work the night shifts while they can use that money else where for the shelter. The sign up process was very easy and they are always in need of help.

  • Doing a tree planting with Casey Trees could be a good volunteer option for you. No major commitment, you sign up for however many plantings you want to participate in and each is a time commitment of a bout three hours and good exercise to boot. Also is a good option for any shy people since the planting teams are small groups of three or four and there isn’t a lot of talking, just digging.

  • Habitat for Humanity has daily (Wednesday-Saturday) opportunities for individuals to volunteer on one of their sites. Just check for openings at

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