Get Online and Volunteer!
The website, as well as the mobile app, helps you find local volunteering opportunities, from picking up trash at a park in Oakland to fostering dogs for a neighborhood shelter. Its nearly 81,000 volunteer opportunities – including thousands in the San Francisco Bay Area – mean you can find one based on your interests, whether it’s helping animals or mentoring youth. In some cases, other volunteers have reviewed the opportunity. Best of all, it lets you filter the results for activities that are suitable for kids or teens. Can’t volunteer in person? VolunteerMatch also offers virtual volunteering opportunities, such as making holiday cards for seniors.
One Brick assembles volunteers to help at nonprofit and community events, from a science festival at AT&T Park to a fundraising gala. Potential volunteers browse a calendar of upcoming local events, one for San Francisco and the East Bay, another for Silicon Valley, which require help. Note that although some of the events may be suitable for kids or teens, One Brick asks that volunteers be 21 and up.
For moms and dads (and maybe older teenagers and college students), Catchafire teams up with nonprofits that need professional help, such as building a website or managing a social media campaign. One of the bonuses of volunteering your professional services is that you can add it to your resume and use it to help you land a new job. The website features projects you browse based on your expertise, such as accounting or marketing. When you find one that intrigues you, you send a message pitching why you're the right candidate for the gig.
Bay Area Volunteer Information Center
The Bay Area Volunteer Information Center provides a list of local nonprofits that need volunteers, which can be sorted by region and city. In most cases, you will have to contact the individual group for more details about volunteer requirements and the kind of help they want.
HandsOn Bay Area
An affiliate of the national HandsOn Network, this site offers a calendar of more than 80 volunteer activities per month, many of which are family-friendly, such as packing sandwiches at Glide Memorial Church. For each event, there’s a video testimonial, details about the opportunity, age and training requirements and time slots. To create an account and sign up, HandsOn Bay Area asks families to make a one-time donation: $25 for volunteers 16 and up and $10 for those 15 and under.
DoSomething.org is aimed at mobilizing teenagers and young adults aged 13 to 25 to take action on a cause they care about. Participants can join themed campaigns, such as battling bullying or teaching seniors tech skills. The campaign is broken down into tasks and activities that teenagers can easily pursue, such as organizing a “Spit Party” to recruit people to contribute their saliva and register as bone marrow donors.
Aimed at kids and teenagers ages 5 and up, generationOn helps them find ways to make a difference in their community. The website offers resources, tips and instructions on how youth and families can get involved. Want to help people affected by Hurricane Sandy or other disasters? Though kids aren't old enough to be first responders, they can still help, such as assembling and creating pillows and blankets for local shelters.
GoVoluntr taps into social networking and gaming to encourage people to volunteer. You can browse its database of projects – including kid-friendly ones – and register for them online. Its "Do-Goodrs" earn points that can be redeemed for rewards, such as a T-shirt or a donation made in your name to a nonprofit.
Volunteer Center of the East Bay
Covering Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano Counties, the Volunteer Center of the East Bay offers a comprehensive database of local nonprofits that need help. Families with children as young as 5 can get involved, and if nothing is suitable, the site also offers a list of volunteer ideas for families with young children. It also has a special section for holiday volunteer opportunities, such as wrapping gifts for a homeless shelter and distributing holiday meals to low-income families.
Volunteer Silicon Valley
Linking to several databases, this portal helps you find volunteer opportunities in Silicon Valley. A filter for kid-friendly activities narrows down the list. There’s also a filter for interest areas, such
as arts and culture, as well as another based on the type of commitment you’re willing to make.
The Volunteer Center
Covering the counties of San Francisco and San Mateo, the Volunteer Center offers a comprehensive database of local nonprofits that need help. It includes a tab for opportunities that have been tagged “youth friendly,” as well as groups that have been recognized with a “youth medallion” for being able to work with kids of all ages.
Ellen Lee writes frequently about technology for Bay Area Parent.