The Questions to Ask Before Volunteering
So you want to volunteer? That’s great! It’s a wonderful way to become a part of your community, meet new people, and learn new things. But, before you jump in be sure you understand what it is that you are looking for. Being happy with your volunteer position and the organization you are serving with are key parts of the impact that your service will have. So take a moment and ask yourself these questions before you sign up for the first position you come across.
What causes or issues matter the most to me?
You need to be passionate about the cause you volunteer for. It needs to be something that gets you excited or at least gets you out of the house. Consider what local organizations address the issues you are interested in. Also, think about if you believe their efforts are worth your time and whether they have good leadership. The answers will help you define what sort of organization you are really looking to volunteer with.
Do you want to use your current skills or learn something new?
Over the course of your life, you’ve learned a lot of things and acquired many different skills. These may be professional skills or things you’ve learned from your hobbies or recreational talents. Your skills are probably in demand somewhere, so the more you consider what skills you have to offer and which ones you want to use, the more likely you are to find a position that matches what you want to do. Inventory your skills and decide in advance if you are looking for a complete change from what you did professionally, or if you want to use those skills again. Deciding this in advance will help you find something that stimulates you or gives you a chance to try something new or keep your current skills sharp.
Is there something I want to learn as a volunteer?
Volunteering gives you the freedom to experiment with new activities, so ask yourself if there is something that you want the opportunity to learn. Some organizations are more than happy to sign up beginners to a task because they are motivated to try something new, and others will even have people who can help train you. So consider when looking at volunteer opportunities if you want to learn something new and if the position will give you the freedom to achieve that goal.
Is there something I don’t want to do as a volunteer?
Everyone has something that they just don’t like to do and that is okay. If there is something that you want to avoid as a volunteer then be honest with yourself up front. Recognize that you can say no to volunteer assignments and be frank with organizations about tasks that you don’t want to do. Happier volunteers are much more likely to return and be productive on tasks that they do like. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with organizations about your duties and be honest.
What kind of volunteer schedule do I want?
It’s important when you start to volunteer that you are honest with yourself and the organization about how much time you can give. Signing up for long of hours over a long period of time that you can’t really meet leaves an organization scrambling to find substitutes. Decide on the front end if you want a long-term position, a short-term position, or just a one-time volunteering task. The organization needs to know what kind of schedule you can keep, and they need to be able to count on you to keep that commitment. When you get started it may be better to start with limited hours of volunteer work and expand your schedule once you are confident in your ability to keep to that schedule.