Short Term vs. Long Term Volunteering

Short Term vs. Long Term Volunteering

By: Kelly Choi
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Volunteering involves different types of roles that require different levels of commitment and time. Many volunteer recruiters and organizations are often limited with resources and run mostly through the support of their volunteers which is why commitment and attendance are essential. Here is a breakdown of short term and long term volunteering roles - from time commitment to tasks involved to benefits - to help you decide the best fit for you and the organization you are volunteering with.

Short Term Volunteering

Short term volunteering roles are usually faster paced and centre around an event such as a marathon, festival or fair, or  a conference. Other examples of short term volunteer roles can include helping conduct research studies or volunteering overseas.

Time Commitment

A short term volunteering role is usually less than 6 months. However, depending on the role, the time commitment can vary. For example, for larger scale events such as marathons (like the Vancouver Sun Run or CIBC Run for the Cure, etc) or festivals (Children's Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, etc), hundreds of volunteers are usually required during the day or days of the event. The tasks for large scale events may involve a variety of on-site tasks such as helping set-up, tear-down, manning booths, or directing participants.

Short term volunteer roles with higher time commitment and responsibility levels may include being more involved with the planning, preparation, promotion, and organization of the event.


  • Allows you to get a general scope of the position, organization, and what it entails, which can help determine if it is something you would like to do long term
  • Usually an easier application process
  • Tasks involved are fairly specific and straightforward
  • First steps in helping get that long term volunteer position (or other positions!)
  • Making a difference!

Long Term Volunteering

Whereas shorter term volunteering is faster paced and more straightforward, longer term volunteering operates at a slower pace and is more focused towards maintenance and growth. There can be a variety of tasks involved with maintenance (helping sustain the organization) and/or growth (devising new ways for the organization to branch out).

Positions can range from office or administration volunteers, mentoring (Big Brother, school mentorship programs), communication roles (social media, marketing), or tutoring, etc.

Time Commitment

Longer term volunteering is usually more than 6 months and requires you to come in for several hours a week. The position can last for as long as the position deems necessary. In comparison to short term volunteering, long term volunteering roles usually have a higher level of participation and responsibility. It is important to ensure that you can commit yourself for a longer period of time before applying.


  • Allows you to develop an idea of what it would be like working for the organization
  • Allows you to build closer rapport within the organization
  • Helps open doors for a future job opportunity at the organization or for other similar positions
  • Provides an opportunity to take on higher level projects or tasks which would give you GREAT overall experience
  • Making a difference!

While I have described several examples of short and long term volunteering based on my experiences and knowledge, there are still many types of other volunteer roles that I have not mentioned. To find the perfect volunteering opportunity for you, do thorough research beforehand and make sure you are fully prepared to devote your time, energy, and effort!

Posted on July 23, 2013