Volunteer Opportunities for Creative Types


As the holiday season approaches, you might find yourself with some free time on your hands. In the spirit of giving, consider putting your creative talents to good use at one of these deserving volunteer organizations. Some of these organizations provide opportunities to volunteer all over the country, while others are based in specific cities. Let the latter serve as inspiration for your own search for worthy organizations closer to you (Idealist.org is a great place to start). And if you know a worthy cause that artists can lend their talents to please feel free to add it in the comments below.

If you’re a writer… 826 National

What is it?: Founded in 2002 by Dave Eggers and Nínive Calegari, 826 National is a nonprofit organization that aims to encourage students to explore creative and expository writing, as well giving advice to teachers on how to inspire their students. They have locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Michigan, Boston and New York City.

What you can do: All of the 826 locations provide drop-in writing tutoring for students after school and host school field trips during the school day. Some are connected to fun retail stores such as Brooklyn’s Superhero Supply Co. and San Francisco’s Pirate Supply, which also need volunteers. Visit your city’s 826 website for more information.

If you’re a photographer… Flashes of Hope

What is it?: Flashes of Hope is a cool nonprofit that goes into hospitals to photograph young cancer patients and their parents free of charge while raising money for pediatric cancer research.

What you can do: The organization relies on photographers, stylists and make-up artists to donate their time and services to survive. With chapters all over the country, it’s easy to find one nearby, or you can even start your own chapter.

If you’re a musician… Musicians on Call

What is it?: Since 1999 Musicians on Call has brought live music to patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. So far they’ve played to over 250,000 patients.

What you can do: If you’re a musician, you can connect with your closest chapter, fill out the application and start playing. The program needs non-musicians as well to act as liaisons between the hospital and the talent.

If you’re a performer… All Stars Project

What is it?: All Stars Project Inc. uses theater performance and music to help communities struggling with poverty through talent shows and after-school theater programs.

What you can do: All Stars always needs volunteers to help produce shows, which involves set design, costume work and technical skills, all of which you can be trained to do.

If you’re a visual artist… RxArt

Credit: Jeff Koons. Photo: Michael Tropea, Chicago. June 2010.

What is it?: RxArt works to put art in hospital rooms and waiting areas, brightening up otherwise dull, lifeless walls that can get patients down. This past June they commissioned Jeff Koons to spruce up the Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital’s CT scanner.

What you can do: Sign up on their website to volunteer to start helping out.

If you’re a web or graphic designer… Grassroots.org

What is it?: Grassroots.org is a website that matches nonprofit organizations in need of design help with either web and graphic designers looking to donate their time and skills.

What you can do: Grassroots.org takes volunteers in both web design and graphic design with at least 5 hours per week to donate. Visit their volunteer FAQ page for more information or browse their volunteer-created website gallery and graphic design gallery for inspiration.