Locals in Asheville tend to be civic-minded – whether you’re simply a caring neighbor who keeps an eye on the kids and pets who are in your area or you’re actively involved in advocacy at city council meetings, there are many ways to be a part of your community. One of the big ones is to volunteer or donate money to local nonprofit organizations.
Asheville nonprofits identify spots where there is a need for some good to be done in the community over and above any government resources that are available. Local nonprofits work to route resources like food, essential goods like baby gear, access to affordable and decent housing to those who really need them, helping families and individuals gain stable footing so they can live their best lives in Asheville.
Other nonprofits advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, focusing on improving animal welfare or conserving the beautiful nature around us so that it doesn’t become polluted or overused.
While we cannot include every single nonprofit doing great work in our area, here are some of the larger ones and the volunteer opportunities they offer. Finding a great fit involves combining your passion with your availability and skills, so check out a few different options!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: A Guide to Asheville’s Nonprofits
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Guide to Asheville’s Nonprofits
1. Help to Provide Assistance Through Eblen Charities
Eblen Charities is a nonprofit focused primarily on directly aiding the less fortunate in our community through donating clothing, food, heat and utility assistance, eyeglasses and other medical needs, and more.
They coordinate educational resources and events like donating gifts to children at Christmas and getting prom dresses for free for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford formal wear. Their long-standing presence in the community has helped them to identify needs and be a consistent presence in places like our schools to make sure that needs are met.
2. Share Your Love for Animals Through the Asheville Humane Society
The Asheville Humane Society enjoys strong support in our area, but they are like other humane societies in that they can always use more monetary resources and volunteers. From volunteering at their main locations to fostering animals to keep shelter costs low, you can be an active part of the work of taking care of local animals who are between homes.
You can also opt to choose and adopt a pet through the Humane Society rather than going through pet breeders – these pets need homes and your love for this pet will help make space for the next animals who need care. When the shelter is exceptionally full, there are pushes with fee-waived adoptions, making the process of adopting an animal less expensive.
For animal lovers who aren’t in a position to adopt an animal into their home, there are sponsorship opportunities, where your donation dollars fully support an animal’s needs while they are in the shelter, and if you run a business, you can be part of donating through profit sharing and contributing a portion of your proceeds or a yearly donation to the Humane Society.
There are even dine-to-donate events where eating at local restaurants also supports this organization – there’s so many ways to care for the animals!
3. Get Ready for a New Arrival at the BEAR Closets
BEAR Closet stands for Baby Equipment and Resource Closet, and multiple United Methodist churches in the Asheville area host these sites. The goal is simple: having a new baby often incurs a lot of equipment and items that are expensive to purchase but may not be used for very many years once the child outgrows them.
The closets allow donors to bring gently used and clean items (or new donated items!) to create a collection of helpful resources. Many families have just one big need, like not owning a stroller or crib, or parents may find themselves in need of multiple items at once due to extreme financial need.
Items are either freely given or loaned for free with the expectation that they will be returned when the child no longer needs that item. Families can contribute more of their low incomes to the ongoing costs of their families, like rent and utilities, if they have some of their baby supplies covered through this useful just-in-time organization.
If you have a basement or garage full of unused baby supplies, consider cleaning them off and contacting the BEAR closet near you to both clear out space for yourself and make a difference in a family’s life!
4. Help Combat Poverty with ABCCM
Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, or ABCCM, is an anti-poverty initiative taken on by over 300 churches in this area. They work to provide emergency assistance through thousands of trained volunteers and many initiatives to help those in our community.
They want to address the root causes of poverty while recognizing that many needs cannot wait. They are perhaps best known for their crisis ministry, a program that provides families in need with food boxes, gently used clothing, utility and rent assistance, and hot meals.
Many of the clients they serve are working multiple jobs or are disabled or living on a fixed income, all while housing and food costs are rising in our area. They also work with veterans in our area, the incarcerated population, and those experiencing homelessness in our area, all with the goal of providing resources during periods of life when people may need an additional helping hand and a community of support.
5. Create Strong Food Systems with Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project – ASAP
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project approaches a single problem from multiple angles: they want more local farmers to succeed in getting their high-quality produce into the hands of local eaters while also making enough money to live.
The program encompasses creating farm tours, offering conferences, running the Asheville City Market, and educating both children and adults about the ways food is grown and produced so that they can have a truly complete understanding of nutrition.
As a volunteer, you can help by assisting in the office, supporting farmer clients, helping at the farmers’ market, working with kids, and so much more. If you’re passionate about farming or great sustainable local food, this could be a great fit for you!
6. Support Parents and Children at Babies Need Bottoms Diaper Bank
Full disclosure: I’m on the board of directors of this organization, so it makes a lot of sense that I believe in their mission, but I also think that their impact on our community makes it a great fit for many who are looking for a place to plug in, contribute, and volunteer. The Babies Need Bottoms diaper bank provides diapering supplies, cloth diapering kits, and period supplies to a variety of community partners that directly engage with people in our community.
Because federal programs like WIC do not provide diapers and diapering is extremely expensive, there is an ongoing crisis of diaper need in the United States and in the counties of Western NC particularly. Families often have to make the decision between paying key bills or buying enough diapers for their children.
The bank serves as a hub to provide diapers through other organizations, helping other nonprofits and programs stretch their own budgets but also creating a consistent source of diaper donations rather than making it more piecemeal. The diaper need in our area is enormous, and in its years of being open, the BNB Diaper Bank has given away more than a million diapers.
The organization is small but mighty, with volunteers who take large and variable-sized packs and rewrap them in the correct amounts for donations. This work can be done in a big group for a large volunteer event or can be done at home with diapers then returned to the warehouse. For those who are looking to have a direct-assistance impact on those raising families in our area, volunteering and donating both can be a great path forward.
7. Help People Find Great Housing at Asheville Area Habitat For Humanity
The concept behind Habitat for Humanity is a great one: in a world where market-priced rent and home purchases are so out of reach for many low-income families, Habitat works to build sturdy homes with the help of volunteer labor and homeowner “sweat equity,” yielding a much more affordable mortgage than would otherwise be possible and creating community in the process.
While most people who apply to buy a Habitat house will put in dozens if not hundreds of hours themselves, volunteers are a huge part of how this organization extends its impact. They need workers to work on each build they create, but they also need people who can do some of the work of the Habitat ReStore, a fundraising shop that sells secondhand building supplies, furniture, and more.
Every hour you contribute to this mission makes it possible for them to funnel more of their overall budget into getting people into homes, and in the process, you may develop new skills or make new friends!
8. Develop a Deep Friendship at Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC
When children have strong adult role models in their lives, they often can see their way to bigger things in the future, from finishing high school to feeling more hopeful about their futures. Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC pairs children and teens who are looking for guidance with adults in the community to become a mentor/mentee and get to know each other.
These meetings may be for fun activities or homework help, but what grows is much bigger than just the moments spent together – children feel they have someone to talk to, someone who can help them navigate challenging days at school or as they prepare for the world beyond school.
In many cases, mentors supplement the work of busy parents who need to work a lot and become a part of the family in their own right. Learn what it means to become a “big” and the commitments involved as a mentor in a child’s life through their website.
9. Grow and Expand Black Businesses Through Black Wall Street AVL
Asheville’s Black business incubator is known as Black Wall Street AVL, working to actively provide for business owners who are people of color. They offer a variety of professional development and assistance with the sometimes challenging process of starting and growing a business, and the passionate volunteers and workers who are involved want to see a more equitable and inclusive business landscape in Asheville, bringing about prosperity that extends to all demographics of our town.
To learn more about the needs of Black Wall Street AVL when it comes to volunteering, it’s best to contact them directly, but a big part of their work is business coaching and mentoring, so if you have extensive business experience and networks to share, this could be a great connection for you to make.
10. Feed Your Community Through MANNA Food Bank
Food banks are large facilities that work through Feeding America, a nationwide food bank organization, to coordinate getting lots of food out to people through smaller local food pantries and other efforts. MANNA, in particular, connects the food industry to 200 partner pantries and human services organizations to get food to thousands of people in 16 counties in Western NC.
They hope to end food insecurity and, in the meantime, they are on the ground sharing food and decreasing the impacts of poverty in our area. There are many ways to donate, including creating a food drive in your organization or place of worship, but you can also sign up for a volunteer profile and learn more from the handbook and videos about how you can help.
They have warehouse shifts where thousands of volunteers help to defray the costs of running the warehouse and, in the process, learn more about food insecurity in our area.
11. Help Our Homeless Neighbors With Homeward Bound of WNC
Homeward Bound of WNC recognizes that housing is a human right and works to offer the kinds of services needed to help as many of our neighbors as possible to get housing and remain housed.
Homelessness is a visible problem in our area, but there are many forms of homelessness that people don’t know about, like people living out of their cars, people doubling up or couch surfing with family, or people who are technically housed but their housing is unsafe and they really need better options.
12. Protect Mountain Places at Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy
If you love the beautiful mountains around you and appreciate getting to go hiking, biking, or kayaking through them, you might find a great outlet volunteering for a conservancy. These organizations, including the local Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, make agreements with land owners and public agencies that help to establish large areas where the water, habitat, and outdoor recreation potential are all sustainably handled so that they will continue to exist for many years to come.
Volunteers with this organization can do a lot, from helping with the administrative tasks and outreach events that SAHC holds to doing trash cleanups on protected land to being part of habitat management to help native species flourish. Get to know what the latest volunteer needs are and put some of your love of nature to work keeping these places beautiful and preserved.
13. Make a Huge Difference for a Family at Working Wheels
Many nonprofit organizations are working to figure out what kind of aid can create a chain reaction of positive improvements in the lives of our friends and neighbors who are struggling in poverty. One example is access to a working vehicle: buying a car is expensive, especially if you have no or poor credit, and so many people rely on rides to work, a bus system that is time-consuming and costly, or can only work within walking distance of home.
Working Wheels sees how much opportunity comes from having your own functional car, and they work to remove the barriers of expense that keep people from driving to and from work and school. Their purchase program refurbishes donated cars and sells them for $500 to working families, while their repairs program offers deep discounts on vehicle repairs to keep working families able to access work and school with a car they already own.
If you are handy with cars or have a car that could be brought into working order and would like a tax deduction for donating it, you might be able to completely change the lives of local friends and neighbors.
14. Serve Those Experiencing a Hard Season at Western Carolina Rescue Ministries
Western Carolina Rescue Ministries is many things: it is an overnight emergency shelter for those who need a place to stay the night, a food kitchen for hot meals, a place to distribute clothing and food to those who need it, and a source of counseling, recovery support, and job training.
When things aren’t going well for our friends and neighbors in Asheville, this ministry can be an option for finding help and taking next steps. Volunteers participate in their work in many ways, including sorting donations and keeping things clean in the thrift stores, volunteering to pick up donations, packing and distributing food, preparing and serving meals, and helping in the office with things like clerical tasks and calling donors to tell them thank you.
Being a kind and friendly face at distributions or religious services held at the Western Carolina Rescue Ministries facilities are also tasks available to those who wish to serve with this organization.
15. Serve Your Older Neighbors with the Council on Aging of Buncombe County
Many communities have organizations that provide wrap-around support to senior citizens, and the Council on Aging of Buncombe County does this work here in Asheville. Making sense of the available options for healthcare, food, transportation, and housing as a senior citizen can be challenging, simply because some options are covered entirely by the government and others are prohibitively expensive, and each person needs to figure out the best path for them.
The Council on Aging provides services like a Call a Ride program, where volunteers and staff schedule regular trips to take locals to their appointments and the grocery store, helping them get door-to-door transportation that helps with mobility and quality of life. There are volunteer positions where you learn about the Affordable Care Act and other healthcare options and work one-on-one with senior citizens to make sure they understand their options and can make a decision that works for them.
There are also food delivery and senior dining opportunities to get food to those who are considered homebound and not leaving for their own grocery shopping at this time. Your impact will be felt by those who may not get a lot of visitors, and a friendly face with some practical help can make a difference.
16. Help Animals Find a Home at Brother Wolf Animal Rescue
Whether an animal is found stray after being abandoned or a family recognizes that they need to rehome a pet due to a severe allergy or other circumstance, there are times when animals need a safe place to stay while a new home is found for them. Brother Wolf Animal Rescue works to be a safe and no-kill environment for the animals in their care, and they advocate for locals to find their next furry friend through their rescue efforts.
Volunteers get to do a bunch of tasks that a lot of animal lovers enjoy: socializing the cats, helping with laundry and dishes, walking the dogs, and greeting people at the front desk. There are shifts available at their charity thrift store and options to drive animals to vet appointments or to and from other shelters.
There are even shelter dog hiking clubs where shelter dogs get to leave and go explore the great outdoors! For those who want a longer-term commitment, signing up to be a foster animal parent allows the animals to socialize in your home while waiting for adoption while also lowering the costs of care in the shelter itself. You can have an impact on so many animals when you commit to fostering!
There you have it! Our guide to nonprofits in Asheville. Did we miss any amazing Asheville nonprofits? Let us know so we can add them to the list!
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