Volunteer as a Writer, for a Cause and a Career!
Need a solid portfolio of written works? Volunteering is a great way to build depth! You will be helping others as well as demonstrating your skills as a writer!
If the written word comes naturally to you, and if you're looking for a way to contribute and build a professional portfolio at the same time, consider working as a volunteer writer.
You should ask yourself what you're hoping to get out of the experience. Is helping others the most important goal, or are you aiming to build a base for a future career in writing? You'll want to be clear on that before scouting for opportunities. Your personal goals will dictate the most fruitful path to volunteer writing. Here are some opportunities to keep in mind.
For every topic, there is a blog, and there are bloggers. Anyone with a desire to write and can access the internet can throw a blog together and try to attract readers. Starting a blog is an effective way to get your writing on display and build a visible portfolio. While this will allow you to point potential employers to your writing online, marketing even a moderately successful blog is a time-consuming endeavor, and many employers prefer to see that you've been writing for others.
The path of least resistance is always to check volunteer website postings to see if there is anything posted that strikes your fancy. A more proactive approach can sometimes yield a better fit.
If you are interested in blogging for charities, keep an eye out for websites of small to medium-sized organizations that include blogs. Start by reading their content. If you'd like to contribute and could easily write in the style of their currents posts, contact them and tell them so. You can try larger organizations, too, but often they have full-time staff or interns that create their blog content.
If you're more interested in breaking into professional blogging, think long and hard about the particular content you're interested in building. Do you want to write about cats? The economy? Comment on the latest soap operas? What background do you have in your chosen topic area? Once you've figured out what you want to write about and short-listed several reasons you are qualified to write on that subject, take to the internet. Start reading blogs that concentrate on your chosen topic, and then get in touch.
Guest blogging, even as a volunteer, is a tougher nut to crack than writing for charities. Don't be discouraged. If several weeks into your search you haven't found a suitable volunteer opportunity, you can always consider going back to the possibility of writing your blog.
Newsletters are a fantastic way to volunteer as a writer. Though fewer organizations produce newsletters today than they did years ago, fewer people volunteer to write for them. Volunteering to write articles for a regular newsletter is likely to be a more structured experience than writing blog posts. If you're hoping to build a network of friends and colleagues while also supporting a good cause, this is a much better option than guest blogging or even blogging regularly as a volunteer.
Finding volunteer opportunities for writing a newsletter involves the same process as writing for an organization's blog. First, look through volunteer matching websites. If that doesn't yield results, then dig a little deeper. Find out which organizations release newsletters, make a list of the ones you're interested in, and start making phone calls. Email may work, too, but often speaking to a real person will get you the information you need faster. A large segment of the population also prefers a phone call.
"Case study" is just a fancy phrase for a success story. It may sound frighteningly professional, but don't be deceived. If you can write stories, you can write case studies. The best studies are those that concentrate on people, their challenges, and how an organization has helped them overcome those challenges. Any organization that helps people should have beneficiaries. A quick phone conversation with a satisfied beneficiary can quickly become a case study. Written case studies are the bread and butter of most successful organizations. They put a name and face to the organization's purpose statement, and assure donors that the organization is doing the grassroots work. They are essential for successful grant writing. You might not yield many hits searching for "case study" on volunteer matching websites. Try searching for "communications" instead.
The vast majority of requests for volunteer writers are for grant writers. The best way to find these opportunities is to look through applications for volunteers. In December 2018, a simple search on idealist.org for volunteer grant writers returned over three hundred opportunities. If you are volunteering as a method of finding a job, be upfront with the organization. You are likely to find one that is okay with writing a full-time communications salary into your grant proposal. Most organizations don't pay their volunteers because they don't have the money. If you can bring in the money, they may be happy to provide the paycheck.
Here are some resources for finding volunteer writing positions:
Finding a volunteer position that utilizes your writing skills can be daunting or surprisingly easy. It depends on your attitude. Don't be afraid to seek opportunities that aren't advertised, use the internet as a resource, and remember that many Americans prefer to talk on the phone or in person. You should also aim to write every day, even if it is just in a journal. Brilliant writers aren't born, they're made. Like any other skill, it requires practice.