How Do I Know if This is a Good Volunteer Opportunity?
The needs of our many non-profit organizations never goes away. Whether you want to help children or animals, tackle the homeless problem, make sure people have enough to eat, help an arts organization, or work behind the scenes making sure files are filed and phone calls are made, Volunteer Connections can help you find a great place to volunteer. So what should you look for in guaging whether a non-profit volunteer opportunity is a "good one", one where you will feel your time is not wasted, one where you feel you have made a contribution and you are valued and appreciated?
Volunteer Connections suggests the following criteria in picking a volunteer activity.
1. Make sure the mission and your personal values align. You truly need to believe in what the non-profit is doing to get a sense of satisfaction that your time is well spent.
2. Did anyone take the time to personally interview you to find out what you want to do? Sometimes what you want to do and the needs of the organization are not aligned when you initially sign up. If what they need is something you feel comfortable doing then join in, but make sure the Volunteer Coordinator/Manager knows what you'd like to eventually be doing or learning. Sometimes there is a series of steps or training you must do before you reach a certain opportunity. There's a reason it's done that way, make sure you can be patient.
3. Is training or orientation offered so you feel comfortable doing what you've been asked to do? At the very least is there a handbook?
4. Do you know who to go to with questions?
5. When you ask questions do you get answers?
6. Do paid staff integrate you onto their team and treat you as a part of their success?
7. Do others (paid or volunteer) learn your name, say hello, and thank you for helping out?
8. Are you having fun or enjoying what you are being asked to do?
These are the very basic questions you should ask yourself to determine if a volunteer opportunity is a good fit for you. Only you can determine if what is needed, is what you are able to offer.
Remember, it's ok to say "no" or to decide this isn't the right fit for you. Just be sure to tell your supervisor why you feel they way you do. Sometimes its just a perception that is easily cleared up and you might find you can continue to volunteer. Too often volunteers don't voice their concerns or questions and instead just stop coming. This solves nothing. Giving the Volunteer Manager the opportunity to hear your concerns and help you either move onto something else or understand better why things are the way they are will allow the nonprofit to retain you, or to at least replace you. What you experienced may have been experienced by others who said nothing, so consequently, nothing changes. Volunteerism is truly one of the best opportunities for collaborations, because volunteers are usually coming from a place of "heart" and might see things differently than the full time staff.
And if you find it just isn't a good fit, you can always come back to Volunteer Connections to help you find a new opportunity. Volunteerism is a two way street, make sure you are enjoying the journey!