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Doing good, as they say, is its own reward. Volunteer opportunities to provide essential services that would otherwise not be available exist in just about every field.

Photo Credit: SF Marin Food Bank

So why not pay it forward and spread a little selflessness? Take a look at the many ways you can get involved.

1. Animal Rescue Shelters

There aren’t many pet-friendly apartments out there these days, but there are always pets in need of companionship at the shelter. Spending quality time with your furry friends is priceless. Get out there and visit a shelter!

2. Food Pantries

Whether collecting food at the county fair, boxing up delicious deliverables, or serving lunch at the library, food pantry volunteers are providing hunger relief for many local families. Find out how you can get involved.

3. Habitat for Humanity

Whether you want to help out for a day or commit for a season, this volunteer-driven organization has many opportunities to work on construction sites to learn sustainable building practices, sell used items in their ReStore or just help around the office.

4. Local Libraries

Still a vital source in the community, libraries are always looking for volunteers to lead book discussion groups, work with children, lead adult literacy programs or even just help collect and organize material for shelving. Check your local library’s website for details about what you can do.

5. Museums

You don’t need a background in art history to work at the museum. Many local museums rely on the enthusiasm and energy of volunteers to enhance the experience for their visitors. Check out our recent list of the best museum jobs in the Bay Area.

Source: SF GoodwillPhoto Credit: SF Goodwill


For more than 150 years, it’s always been about strengthening the community at the Y. Teach positive values to children, promote healthy living and help people of all ages realize their potential. Bringing about meaningful change starts with volunteers like you.

7. Retirement Homes

Some seniors are unable to get around on their own and lack the companionship and freedom they once had. Why not visit an assisted living facility near you to learn about how you can help the elderly in your area, whether it’s running errands, delivering a meal or just stopping by to sit and talk.

8. Red Cross

Becoming a volunteer with the Red Cross is as simple as going to their website and signing up. It only takes a few minutes to create a profile and select an activity. From their annual blood drives, crisis support and education to their constant fundraising efforts, the Red Cross is one of the oldest and most active volunteer organizations in the country.

9. Volunteering Abroad

This is a great way to broaden your community outreach efforts by connecting with people from other cultures and backgrounds. Volunteering abroad is an opportunity to see the world and make a difference through addressing specific community needs within other countries. Making a real and lasting impact can be a fantastic learning experience as well.

10. Church/Volunteers of America

No matter your faith or religious background, there are countless opportunities to volunteer with local churches. Whether working with at-risk youth or helping the homeless, Volunteers of America are always making efforts to serve their communities in any way they can.

11. National Parks

Two essential American traditions are volunteering for a good cause and visiting the national parks. What could be better than combining them? Whether teaching children about native plants or helping in group clean-up efforts, you’ll have no problem finding a park in the Bay Area where you can volunteer your time. 

Source: Daniel Thorton

Photo Credit: Daniel Thorton

12. Hospital

You don’t have to have a background in nursing to become a volunteer at a local hospital. If you have time, patience and talent, local medical centers welcome the friendliness and comfort you can provide their patients.

13. Homeless Shelter

Help bring hope to men, women and children of all ages to this meaningful cause. All it takes to get started volunteering at the homeless shelter is filling out a form and attending an orientation seminar.

14. Park Clean Up/Preservation Efforts

With over 225 parks and recreational facilities in the San Francisco area alone, there are a number of ways in which you can help keep these public spaces clean for continued use, like teaching or assisting at a local event.

15. After School Tutoring

Homework helpers and creative writers are always needed, especially in our underserved communities. Check out the many ways in which you can work one-on-one or in groups with children of all ages.

Not only can volunteerism bring hope and inspiration to others, it may also give you that warm feeling inside commonly known as joy. Volunteering your time shows self-motivation and is an impressive addition to your resume. If you have the time, it’s good to give.

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