You will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteering experience if you first take some time to identify your goals and interests. Start by thinking about why you want to volunteer. Also, think about what you would enjoy doing. Volunteer opportunities that match both your goals and your interests are most likely to be fun and fulfilling for you. You are donating your valuable time, so it is important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. It is important to make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit and to communicate with the people you are working with in the volunteer organization.
You want to make sure that the experience is right for your skills, your goals, and the time you want to spend. If you have any questions, be sure to speak up. Your volunteer coordinator should be able to answer any queries that you have in re: to the volunteer role that you will be undertaking; i.e. time commitment, if there is any training involved, who will be around to support you if you get stuck/ have any questions etc. so don’t be afraid to ask. Make sure you know what is expected. Before starting, make sure you are comfortable with the organization, know what is expected, and understand the time commitment. Consider starting small so that you do not over commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility to change your focus if needed. Do not be afraid to make a change. Speak up if your experience is not what you expected. Do not force yourself into a bad fit. Talk to the organization about changing your focus or consider looking for another match.
Enjoy yourself. Most importantly, make sure you are having fun! The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and the organization. If you are not enjoying yourself, ask yourself why. Is it the tasks you are performing? The people you are working with. Alternatively, are you uncomfortable simply because the situation is new and familiar? Pinpointing what is bothering you can help you decide how to proceed. The experiences you gain through volunteering will really help when you come to complete job applications and do interviews. However, of course you will still have to apply and compete for any job. You may or may not get the first job you apply for, but you will be on the road to getting paid work. To get the most out of your volunteering, it helps to think beforehand about what you would like to gain, such as particular skills or experience. Moreover, volunteering should be something you actively want to do. To put it another way, you should not be volunteered – but you might want to volunteer.
Involving volunteers can help you to:
- Engage a more diverse range of skills, experience and knowledge
- Reach more of your beneficiaries
- Raise awareness about your cause as well as your organization, its profile and what you do
- Build relationships within the community in which you work and contribute to supporting others in your community. By providing volunteering opportunities, you provide opportunities for social inclusion, skills development and potential routes to employment. There is also evidence that volunteering can help to improve health and wellbeing for individuals
- Inform the development and delivery of your activities, projects or services by bringing in new opinions, ideas or approaches. This can help you to adapt, stay relevant to what your beneficiaries and community needs as well as identifying opportunities to improve what you do
- Deliver your service or projects in a more effective and efficient way which can help to save money and resources. However, organizations do have to invest in supporting volunteering for this to work effectively.
Volunteers make a difference in a whole range of settings and organizations from small volunteer led community groups, larger national and international charities and the YPDSN and other public sector organizations.