Skip to main content
SFU Student

Picture of a clock
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!

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!

SFU Student

You Might Like These... Volunteering, Sustainability

Iceberg Melting
What’s Your Cause? Polar Regions, Climate Change, Cultural Awareness, New Immigrant

Over the course of the past semester, SFU Volunteer Services set out to learn what causes motivate SFU students to get involved in their communities–either on campus or beyond. We collected information through the ENGAGE blog and want to highlight some now in hopes of inspiring others to think about what their cause is and how they can contribute!

Children playing hopscotch
An SFU student perspective on the Big Sisters Study Buddy program

You may have heard of them–you may even have an idea of what they do. But have you ever thought of being one? Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland has been serving girls in one-to-one mentoring relationships since 1960, with the mission of “enhancing the confidence, self-esteem and well-being of girls through supportive friendships with caring women”. Each Big and Little Sister match gets together once a week for at least one year. 

Mubnii smiling with her hands in an open position, in front of an aquarium
Health Sciences Student Profile: Mubnii Morshed

Heath Sciences offer students one of the most comprehensive and diverse programs, focusing on everything from epidemiology, molecular biology to political science anthropology. These days, there are many volunteer opportunities associated with the Health Sciences.

You Might Like These... Volunteering

 The crowd at the Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremonies
Volunteering for Special Olympics: An Interview with Al-Rahim Habib

Special Olympics Canada is an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through positive sports. Al-Rahim Habib, an SFU student is finishing his B.Sc. in Health Sciences this semester, is currently volunteering for Special Olympics BC, a chapter of Special Olympics Canada.  His goal is to one day become a medical doctor.

a woman presenting to a group of people
How to Promote Cross-Cultural Experiences in Your Resume

Rui dishes about how volunteering can beef up your resume and give you a cross cultural edge! Read on for great tips and resources. 

Picture of a bunch of volunteers
Help, Learn, & Discover.

“Help, Learn, & Discover” is an organization that gives university students the opportunity to volunteer abroad and build homes for the poor in Ecuador, while gaining useful work experience – particularly for biology and pre-medical students. There are three programs you.. can choose from