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Volunteering 101

When was the last time your volunteered? Volunteering is nothing new. I bet we all have done it from time to time. How did your volunteer experience go? I have had a mixed bag of experiences over the past couple of years. As many of you know, I retired from corporate America and now am working on my own and volunteering my time at many organizations.  I want to share my experiences with how to insure that when you do volunteer that you are getting the most out of your experience.

Why do you volunteer? Let’s face it, no one is volunteering for the money, there is none. We basically do it because we like how it makes us (the volunteer) feel. Giving back to makes us feel good! I also volunteer to help me to continue to learn new things. When I feel good and learn something – I am in the best place possible. Think about why you want to help and match your wants to the organizations needs.

Have you ever had a volunteer experience go totally wrong? Or was not what you expected? Some of the best laid plans go totally south from time to time. I usually like to look over the organizations website to fully understand the organizations volunteer opportunity. Most larger organizations have a volunteer coordinator that can be an excellent resource to fully understanding what the opportunity is and what you will be doing. Make sure that you have your basic questions and concerns covered before you sign up! For me, I have done some volunteer work with expectations that were communicated and followed up on. When I got there, everything was different. Put that experience on high alert. I spent the next four hours stuffing envelopes. I did it, but definitely was not overly happy with my experience.

Do you go back to past organizations? This is the true test to how well that past experience went – you come back from more.

What is it that made you come back? I come back when I feel that the time that I spent volunteering was worthwhile. Worthwhile for both the organization and myself. Some people love to stuff envelopes – me not so much. I also like to come back, when everything is planned out fairly well. That means that the communication channels are open and being used. It means that expectations of the volunteer opportunity are pretty clear. Nothing is perfect and flexibility is needed, but when you go into the opportunity thinking one thing and it is a complete 180 degrees from that thinking – it is tough.

The only problem with what I have written here, is that the small volunteer opportunities usually are not well communicated and expectations clearly set. You could miss out on a pretty awesome opportunity. So, I like to take a little time to call or email the folks to discuss further the volunteer opportunity. Hearing their passion for the opportunity and how they answer my questions, usually sell me.

Best advice – Do some research on the organization and volunteer opportunity.  Discuss it with someone within the organization. Decide on if this is right for you. Get behind and give 110%. This should give you everything that you wanted in that volunteer opportunity.

Anything you do differently?

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