A growing number of people are looking to contribute their time and energy to worthwhile causes. But just how do you get started? Here are some tips to help you on your quest to help others.

Search your soul. First you need to decide what issue or mission most suits you and your values, advises Jason Willett, director of communications for VolunteerMatch, a national Web-based organization that helps connect people with fulfilling volunteer opportunities. "Think about what is important to you and talk to your friends and family members about the volunteer work they do," says Willett. "Don't forget to consider what will fit into your schedule. You don't want to overcommit because in the end that won't benefit you or the organization."

Get connected. Now start researching the volunteer and career opportunities available in your community and beyond. Today, an increasing number of virtual volunteer opportunities exist, allowing participants to do their good work via telephone and E-mail. Also, many communities are home to volunteer networks, which help people find meaningful service opportunities in their areas. The Internet is also filled with resources to help you get connected. Check out the following Web sites, which provide information on finding volunteer work or careers with nonprofits. If you can't find an organization that deals specifically with your cause, consider launching your own or begin taking action individually.

Make it happen. The last—and most crucial—step is to get started, says longtime environmental activist Diane Wilson. "It is like [Mahatma] Gandhi said, the important thing about doing an action is doing it," Wilson says. "You don't have to be the best. You don't have to have a lot of money. You don't have to be given the go-ahead. You just have to do it."

—C.M.