How Volunteer Opportunities for Kids Work

Children cleaning up trash in park.
Community projects -- such as picking up litter -- make great volunteer opportunities for kids.
Leland Bobbe/Digital Vision/Getty Images

With self-checkouts replacing grocery baggers and newspaper-delivery positions being taken over by adults, it can be tough for a kid to find a job these days.

Kids who are having difficulty finding employment -- or are just looking for a way to contribute to their community -- can always look into volunteer opportunities. Volunteering gives children valuable work experience, introduces them to new people and provides them with a sense of pride in their work.


Volunteer positions don't typically offer monetary compensation, but there are other types of benefits -- in addition to building résumés and receiving networking opportunities, volunteers could also be eligible to apply for college scholarships, and sometimes the nonprofit organizations that hire volunteers offer their own perks.

In the next few pages of this article, you'll find out about the benefits available to volunteers, as well as tips for locating volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood. There are various opportunities for students in elementary school, middle school, high school and beyond. Many of these positions require little or no special skills, and they'll require only a little bit of energy and time. The amount of time spent at the job is up to the child. Some volunteering jobs are a one-time deal for a few hours, but others involve a more long-term commitment.

Regardless of the volunteer's skill level or availability, there are plenty of positions available -- you just have to know where to look. Every day, hundreds of volunteers help out at organizations such as libraries, schools, animal shelters and hospitals (to name just a few). And there are always opportunities with nonprofit groups that focus on philanthropy and take proactive roles in their communities.

For information on some of the best places to look for volunteering opportunities for kids, see the next page.


Volunteer Programs for Kids

Finding volunteer programs for young adults is not as easy as it is for the 18-and-up crowd. There are more restrictions and guidelines for minors -- such as required parental permission. But the opportunities for kids are there. And if you know where to look, you'll find that volunteer programs exist for kids as young as 5 years old.

Two of the most respected community service programs for kids are the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA. Both of these organizations have longstanding traditions of engaging their young members in volunteering activities. As a part of the Boy Scouts' promise to help others, troops regularly take part in community projects such as planting trees, recycling, picking up litter and assisting other organizations with events [sources: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts].


Through the Girl Scouts, girls can take part in programs that teach them to recognize community needs and create their own volunteering opportunities. Girls as young as 5 years old can begin their scouting journey as "Daisies" and continue until 11th or 12th grade, when they become "Ambassadors" [source: Girl Scouts].

This next opportunity is great for kids who love animals but can't have a pet at home. Animal shelters often need volunteers who can provide their animals with basic care, love and attention. The animals in a shelter need more than clean cages and fresh food. In order to stay happy and healthy, dogs need walks and cats need to be brushed, petted and cuddled.

Want to know a few of the ways that volunteering can benefit the volunteers? Check out the next page.


Benefits for Kids Who Volunteer

Volunteering provides more than just a good feeling about the participant's accomplishments. It also offers résumé-building benefits and travel opportunities.

You don't have to stick with local organizations when you're volunteering. Think big! Programs all over the world need volunteers. Volunteers in foreign countries get to experience the beauty of another culture while meeting new people and potentially making lifelong friendships. For a young person, traveling abroad can be an invaluable educational opportunity.


One organization that offers service programs around the world is Habitat for Humanity. Partnerships like its Global Village program provide housing for people in impoverished countries. For more information on programs like this, contact Habitat for Humanity or an organization it partners with -- such as a community church group.

Volunteer experience can really beef up college and job applications. And you don't have to be in high school to start thinking about ways to make yourself a better candidate. Getting an early start with volunteering will give you a leg up on the future competition.

Many businesses, philanthropy foundations and nonprofit organizations that support volunteerism offer college scholarships. National charities and companies such as Ronald McDonald House and Best Buy offer volunteer-based scholarships annually to students across the United States [sources: RMHC, Best Buy].

One way to track down national scholarships like these, as well as local ones, is to contact colleges in your area. It is not uncommon for financial aid or counseling offices to have lists of the scholarships that are available to their students.

If you'd like to know more about volunteering opportunities for kids, see the next page for links to additional information.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Anderson Animal Shelter. "Volunteering at Anderson Animal Shelter." (Accessed 5/5/09).
  • Best Buy. "2009 Best Buy @ 15 Scholarships to be Announced in May." (Accessed 5/5/09).
  • Boy Scouts of America National Council. "Service Projects." (Accessed 5/5/09).
  • Girl Scouts of the USA. "Community Outreach and Education." (Accessed 5/5/09).
  • Grandville High School (GHS). "Curriculum Guide." 2009: 7. (Accessed 5/5/09).
  • Habitat for Humanity. "Global Village Program." (Accessed 5/6/09).
  • Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan. "Kid Volunteer Application." (Accessed 5/5/09).
  • Organ, Michael. "Promote Community Service Scholarships." Charity Guide. (Accessed 5/6/09).
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). "RMHC U.S. Scholarships." (Accessed 5/6/09).
  • WLKY. "2009 WLKY Bell Awards." March 6, 2009. (Accessed 5/6/09).