happy_new_yearIt’s the end of the decade. And like some people, you might be thinking about New Year’s (or Decade’s) resolutions. But instead of hitting the gym more, you could consider volunteering your time for a cause or organization. If you’re not sure where to start, there are a number of startups using technology to connect volunteers with organizations who need their time and energy.

VMFor those who have not volunteered in the past and are looking to get more educated before giving your time, check out VolunteerMatch. The San Francisco based company holds monthly one-hour “How to be a great volunteer” webinars that a free and easy to register. Topics covered include: training and screening tools non-profits use, how to evaluate if an organization is a good fit for you, potential stumbling blocks volunteers might encounter and how to overcome any obstacles that you may face along the way. The next webinar is scheduled for Jan. 14, 2010. If you’re interested, you can register here.

ipartIf you’re looking for an easy and customizable way to search for volunteer opportunities in your area then check out iParticipate, which was started by members of the entertainment industry to promote volunteering. The site offers a clean user interface that makes finding a volunteer opportunity in your area quick and easy. After searching in the Boston area for “animal” volunteer opportunities, it generated a list of 100 possibilities – everything from shelter caretaker to fostering animals. For those looking to get more specific, the list can be filtered by cause, distance or post date. iParticipate also integrates with Google Maps and plots search results.

ExtraMany volunteer opportunities require time commitments every week. For those looking for a more relaxed volunteer opportunity, then Extraordinaries has created an innovative mobile or web browsing volunteering system. The company allows people on the go to complete tasks using their cellphones for organizations or causes by committing just a few spare minutes a day. One task available is sponsored by KaBOOM! who is looking for volunteers to help them map playground locations in an effort to determine which need to be rebuilt. By simply taking a photo of a playground and uploading to the Extraordinaries site, the task is complete for that volunteer. The company also gives organizations and causes a simple way to create tasks leveraging either a maps or photo format, such as the one described above.

GiveAnother mobile opportunity to volunteer can be found at Give Work, an iPhone application developed by Samasource and Crowdflower – both helping to bring key resources to refugees via the internet. The app is similar to the Extraordinaries concept and asks users to volunteer a few minutes of their time to help refugees by using their mobile phones. Users ares asked to complete onscreen tasks that could include tagging a map or tracing a road. The refugees are training to complete these same tasks, so by volunteering you generate money to continue training and the campaign, which is an effort to help refugees in Dadaab, Kenya – the world’s largest refugee site.