What is volunteering?
A volunteer is someone from the community who contributes to the development of the community. They are valued as individuals who bring a unique contribution to the group with whom they work. Volunteers work for no reward other than the development of themselves and the community. They accompany others towards a common goal.
Questions to ask yourself before volunteering
Often, there are so many volunteer opportunities to choose; finding the right one is difficult. Here are some helpful hints:
Pick an issue you really care about.
What are some community problems that concern you? If your choices include broad issues like health or environment you may want to narrow it down to specific parts of the problem (e.g., cancer or clean water).
Ask your friends.
Over 65% of all volunteers who volunteer do so because they were asked.
Look at immediate needs.
Organisations submit immediate needs to the Volunteer Centre. Review their needs and get some ideas of the possibilities. Check out the online database.
Think about your skills.
Are there skills that you have that you'd like to use in a volunteer opportunity?
Ask the Volunteer Centre for ideas.
Be Aware Of Your Needs:
One of the most important considerations you should think about before volunteering are your needs.
What do you want to gain from volunteering? This answer varies from person to person and no answer is wrong. From a chance to make a difference, to using a skill or talent; from gaining professional experience to expressing your religious faith; from a chance to meet new people to achieving personal growth; gaining a more balanced life to giving something back. There are lots of reasons people volunteer. Be aware of yours.
If you are under 16 you will need to let the volunteer co-ordinator know your age; some agencies have set age limits for their volunteers.
For many people the biggest barrier to volunteering is a busy schedule. However, most of us really can fit volunteering into our lives. There is no minimum time requirement you can put in an hour a day, an hour a month, or an hour a year. Look for holes in your schedule or combine volunteering with other important activities like family time, or combine it with a hobby (e.g. photography, playing the piano, etc.},
Remember to pick a convenient location - sticking with a volunteer opportunity will be hard if getting there is part of the problem.
Remember that you should enjoy your volunteering experience. Pick something that you think will be fun, fulfilling and enjoyable.
Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Volunteer
Volunteering is the gift of time. Nevertheless it's important not to feel over stretched. The help you give should certainly not prevent you from pursuing any hobbies, or your family and social life.
As a volunteer you have responsibilities but you also have rights.
YOUR RIGHTS AS A VOLUNTEER
The assets you bring to an agency are considerable.
As a volunteer you have the right:
- To be treated as a co-worker, not just free help.
- To a suitable assignment--with consideration for personal preference, temperament, life experience, education and employment background.
- To know as much about the organisation as possible-its policies, people and programs.
- To training for the job and continuing education on the job-including training for greater responsibility.
- To a role description.
- To a place to work - a designated place that is conducive to work and worthy of the job to be done.
- To new opportunities and a variety of experiences - through advancement or transfer, or through special assignment.
- To be heard - to feel free to make suggestions, to have a part in planning.
- To recognition - in the form of promotion and awards, through day to day expressions of appreciation and by being treated as a bona fide co-worker.
- To sound guidance and direction.
YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS A VOLUNTEERThere are responsibilities of a volunteer that accompany your rights as a volunteer. All of those involved in the relationship must have respect for one another and a desire to cooperate in meeting designated needs.
Your responsibilities include:
- If you have criticism about another person, convey it to your supervisor.
- Be prompt and reliable in reporting for scheduled work. Keep accurate records of your hours worked.
- Notify your supervisor as early as possible if you are unable to work as scheduled.
- Attend orientation and training sessions scheduled.
- Be considerate, respect the ability of the staff, and work as a member of the team.
- Carry out assignments in good spirit and seek the assistance of your supervisor in any situation requiring special guidance.
- Accept the right of the agency to dismiss any volunteer for poor performance, including poor attendance.
- Decline work that is not acceptable to you; maintain an open mind with regard to other people's standards and values.
- Communicate personal limitations - acceptable out-of-pocket costs, transportation needs, time constraints, etc.
- Provide feedback, suggestions, and recommendations to your supervisor and staff if these might increase the effectiveness of the program.
- Give written notice if you cannot continue in your volunteer position or if you are requesting a leave of absence from the program.
- Have the ability to work with a culturally diverse population of clients.
- Respect current agency policies (i.e. Affirmative Action, Sexual Harassment, etc.
10 tips for a wise volunteering choice
1. Research the causes or issues important to you.
Look for a group that deals with issues about which you feel strongly. You might already be giving money to one of these organisations, and that might be a good place to begin your volunteer experience. If you can't find such an organisation, here's a challenging and intriguing thought: why not start one yourself? You can rally your neighbors to clean up that vacant lot on the corner, patrol the neighborhood, paint an elderly neighbor's house, take turns keeping an eye on the ailing person down the street, or form a group to advocate for a remedy to that dangerous intersection in your neighborhood. There is no end to the creative avenues for volunteering, just as there is no end to the need for volunteers.
2. Consider the skills you have to offer.
If you enjoy outdoor work, have a knack for teaching, or just enjoy interacting with people, you may want to look for volunteer work, which would incorporate these aspects of your personality. Many positions require a volunteer who has previous familiarity with certain equipment, such as computers, or who possesses certain skills, such as ability in athletics or communications. For one of these positions you might decide to do something comparable to what you do on the job during your workday, or something that you already enjoy as a hobby. This sort of position allows you to jump right into the work without having to take training to prepare for the assignment.
Think about looking for a volunteer opportunity, which would be suitable for parents and children to do together, or, for husband and wife to take on as a team. When a family volunteers to work together at a nonprofit organisation, the experience can bring them closer together, teach young children the value of giving their time and effort, introduce everyone in the family to skills and experiences never before encountered, and give the entire family a shared experience as a wonderful family memory.
4. Would you like to learn something new?
Perhaps you would like to move into areas that will provide you with novelty or change. Then seek a volunteer opportunity involving training in an unfamiliar skill. Many nonprofits seek out people who are willing to learn, especially if the needs they serve are specialised or unique. Many nonprofits have a demonstrated need, but few volunteers skilled in what it takes to fill that need. Realize beforehand, however, that such work might require much more of an effort or a time commitment for training before the actual volunteer assignment begins. Make sure you are willing to commit to the necessary responsibilities.
5. Don't over-commit your schedule.
Make sure the volunteer hours you want to give fit into your hectic life, so that you don?t frustrate your family, exhaust yourself, shortchange the organisation you're trying to help or neglect your day job. Do you want a long-term assignment or something temporary? If you are unsure about your availability, or want to see how the work suits you before making an extensive commitment, see if the organisation will start you out on a limited number of hours until you get the feel of things. Better to start out slowly than to commit yourself to a schedule you can't or don't want to fulfill.
6. Nonprofits may have questions, too.
While most nonprofits are eager to find volunteer help, they have to be careful when accepting the services you offer. If you contact an organisation with an offer to donate your time, you may be asked to come in for an interview, fill out a volunteer application, describe your qualifications and your background?just as you would at an interview for a paying job. It is in the organisation?s interest to make certain you have the skills they need, that you are truly committed to doing the work, and that your interests match those of the nonprofit. Furthermore, in volunteer work involving children or other at-risk populations, there are legal ramifications for the organisation to consider.
7. I never thought of that!
Many community groups which are looking for volunteers may not have occurred to you. Most of us know that hospitals, libraries, and churches involve volunteers for a great deal of their work, but here are some volunteer opportunities which may not have crossed your mind:
- day care centers
- Neighborhood Watch
- public schools and colleges
- halfway houses
- community theatres
- drug rehabilitation centers
- retirement centres and homes for the elderly
- Meals on Wheels
- church or community-sponsored soup kitchens
- museums, art galleries, and monuments
- community choirs, bands and orchestras
- neighbourhood parks
- youth organisations, sports teams, and afterschool programs
- shelters for battered women and children
- historical restorations, battlefields and national parks
8. Give voice to your heart through your giving and volunteering!
Bring your heart and your sense of humor to your volunteer service, along with the enthusiastic spirit that is, in itself, a priceless gift. What you'll get back will be immeasurable!
9. Virtual volunteering?
Yes, there is such a thing! If you have computer access and the necessary skills, some organisations now offer the opportunity to do volunteer work over the computer. This might take the form of giving free legal advice, typing a college term paper for a person with a disability, or simply keeping in contact with a shut-in who has e-mail. This sort of volunteering might be well-suited to you if you have limited time, no transportation, or a physical disability which precludes you from getting about freely. Virtual volunteering can also be a way for you to give time if you simply enjoy computers and want to employ your computer skills in your volunteer work.
10. Be a year-round volunteer!
We all tend to think more of those in need during the holidays; but volunteering is welcome and necessary all year. The need for compassion doesn?t stop with the New Year, and warm spring weather doesn?t fill empty stomachs or decrease the litter in the public parks. We all need to be aware that making our communities, our nation and our world better is a 365-day-a-year responsibility?and there is always something we could be doing to help!
Reasons for Young People to Volunteer
1. Gain Job Experience Volunteer experience looks great on a resume. Also, some of the work you do could lead to a job doing similar work.
2. Improve Your Health and Self-Esteem Volunteering to help others has been shown to reduce stress, give you hope, and boost your self-esteem.
3. Meet Real Community Needs Helping people learn to read, or get basic food, clothing, shelter or furniture makes a huge difference! Whether the project is planting a tree or tutoring children, the community will look and feel better.4. Gain Entrance to College Colleges and universities today are looking for applicants who have more than high grades. They are looking for well-rounded people who have volunteered to make a difference in their communities.
5. Meet New People and Establish Friends, Connections, and References When you work alongside others, you really get to know them and become friends with them! Also, adults at organisations can connect you to great opportunities and provide you with a reference for a job or college.
6. Gain New Skills and Develop Talents Whether you enjoy working with computers, children, or seniors, any interest you have can be developed through volunteering.
7. Spread Positive Energy! Just like random acts of kindness, when you volunteer, your energy and efforts affect the whole community.
8. Make the World a Better Place If you see problems in your community that you feel need addressing, do something about them. By volunteering, you do make a difference and help make the world a better place.
9. Personal Growth By taking on new tasks you will learn more about both people and life.
10. It's Fun! Volunteering will bring laughter and smiles into your life.
Source Energize Inc
Used with Permission