5 types of volunteer work

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There are many ways to help and volunteer. You can provide manual labor or mentor someone. You can sell, plan, organize, manage, or even entertain. There are volunteer jobs that you do for a few weeks or even just for a day. On the other hand, long-term jobs like advocacy work can span a lifetime. All of these admirable tasks fall into five general categories:

  1. Formal

    Formal volunteering programs are structured and supervised. These are long-term programs that also involve sustained, regular attendance from the volunteers. These programs usually have managers or coordinators that recruit, train, supervise, and check volunteers’ work outcomes. There is an emphasis on policies, procedures, and quality management of services being delivered.

    Example positions: Tour guide or docent, hospital volunteer, or fundraiser for large charities.
    Sample activities: Greeting visitors, giving directions, serving meals to patients, printing out and mailing letters.
    See current volunteer opportunities at the Canadian Red Cross (Emergency Responders).

  2. Governance

    Volunteers in governance work provide leadership and direction to an organization. They help in planning and decision-making. Those who fit this type of work usually have career experience or advocacy related to the organization’s main focus.

    Example positions: Member of the Board of Directors of a not-for-profit, member of a parish administration board, treasurer for the Parent-Teacher Association
    Sample activities: Attending regular meetings, taking minutes of the meeting, basic accounting.
    Interested in serving as a Board Member of a not-for-profit? Check volunteer opportunities at Charity Village.

  3. Informal

    Informal volunteer work is usually done in local communities in unfunded and unstructured settings. Those who join often think of themselves as members or friends rather than volunteers.

    Example positions: Guest instructor, member of a neighbourhood safety patrol or street clean-up.
    Sample activities: Teaching arts and crafts, walking with a group around the neighbourhood to keep it safe, picking up trash for a clean-up drive.
    Visit your nearest church or community group to learn about projects you can get involved in.

  4. Social action

    Social action volunteers are joined together by a common advocacy or goal. Like non-formal volunteers, they regard each other as friends or comrades. A social action volunteer program can have structure, for example having a coordinator or leader, but some do not. Volunteers do not usually have regular hours of volunteer time. But volunteers make up for it since they are usually very passionate and motivated about the cause and work hard towards achieving specific social change.

    Example positions: : Lobbyist for political groups, campaigner for environmentalism, advocate for research studies for a certain illness or disease.
    Sample activities: Attending rallies, talking to people about issues, making placards, gathering signatures, making phone calls.
    Check out Greenpeace Winnipeg’s activities. If you are an animal rights advocate, check volunteer opportunities at the Winnipeg Humane Society.

  5. Project based

    In this type of volunteer work, volunteers provide their services for projects that have defined time frames. This requires volunteers to have specific skills to contribute. They follow clearly defined goals and deliver work at the specified deadline. Project-based work can exist within a formal program or a standalone project. It can have leaders or coordinators but they are not expected to manage the volunteers.

    Example positions: Folklorama volunteer, member of a committee planning the anniversary of your town
    Sample activities: Welcoming visitors, drafting a communications plan, soliciting advertisers for a commemorative book, organizing a drive.
    Ask how you can get involved in a project for the Oak Table.

Other types:

You may have heard of internship year or gap year volunteering and voluntourism. These types of volunteer work are usually for students or young people who want to experience working for a non-profit or an non-government organization. More often than not, these are carried out overseas. Volunteers are expected to work within a specific period (usually over the summer up to a year). They have the opportunity to experience local culture while providing services like teaching a language or assisting the organization in various tasks.

With recent technological advances, online volunteering and micro volunteering have become common. Online volunteering work can range from mentoring to counselling certain groups of people. It can also use the telephone like the Canadian Red Cross Friendly Calls Program. For more virtual volunteering opportunities all over Canada, go to Volunteer Canada.

Meanwhile, micro-volunteering consists of small actions done online that support a cause. Examples are donating through crowdfunding sites (Kickstarter, GoFundMe, etc.) or joining campaigns by providing your digital signature (example: Open Letters to the government on various issues from ONE) via email. These types of volunteering provide opportunities to those who have no time, unable to be physically present, housebound, or are in far off places. This shows that as long as you’re willing to help, you can get involved!
Article updated October 25, 2023.
Sources: Types of volunteering, Volunteering Queensland; The five types of volunteer programs and how to pick the right one, Steph Dyson, Go Overseas; and 5 different types of volunteering activities, Volunteer Weekly. Retrieved July 5, 2018.

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Community Resources

There are many volunteer opportunities in Manitoba. Here are some of them:

Go to Volunteer Manitoba for other volunteer opportunities. Key in your preferences in the search options or scroll down to the bottom of the page for a complete list.

Check your community center’s bulletin board for volunteer opportunities. Your child’s school is also a good source of volunteer positions you can consider.

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