Volunteer is described as an unpaid activity where someone gives their time to help a not-for-profit Organization or an individual who they are not related to.
One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. However, volunteering is a two-way street, and it can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills.
Volunteering helps you make new friends and contacts
One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. Volunteering also strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighbourhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.
Volunteering increases your social and relationship skills
While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.
Tips for getting started volunteering
First, ask yourself if there is something specific you want to do.
For example, do I want…
…to make it better around where I live
…to meet people who are different from me
…to try something new
…to do something with my spare time
…to see a different way of life and new places
…to have a go at the type of work I might want to do as a full-time job
…to do more with my interests and hobbies
…to do something I’m good at
The best way to volunteer is to match your personality and interests. Having answers to these questions will help you narrow down your search.
Consider your goals and interests
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.
Source: World Volunteer Web
How to find the right volunteer opportunity
There are numerous volunteer opportunities available. The key is to find a volunteer position that you would enjoy and are capable of doing. It’s also important to make sure that your commitment matches the organization’s needs.
The following questions can help you narrow your options:
- Would you like to work with people or would you rather work in solitude?
- Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
- Are you better behind the scenes or do you prefer to take a more visible role?
- How much time are you willing to commit?
- How much responsibility are you ready to take on?
- What skills can you bring a volunteer job?
- What causes are important to you?
Getting the most out of volunteering
You’re donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. It’s important to make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit and to communicate with the people you’re working with in the volunteer organization.
- Ask questions. 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’s 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 don’t over commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility to change your focus if needed.
- Don’t be afraid to make a change. Speak up if your experience isn’t what you expected. Don’t 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’re having fun! The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and the organization. If you’re not enjoying yourself, ask yourself why. Is it the tasks you’re performing? The people you’re working with? Or are you uncomfortable simply because the situation is new and familiar? Pinpointing what’s bothering you can help you decide how to proceed.
I have limited mobility – can I still volunteer?
Whether due to a lack of transportation, time constraints, a disability or other reasons, many people prefer to volunteer via phone or computer. There are many projects where you can help. Writing and graphic design lends itself to working at home, and in today’s digital age many organisations might also need help with email and websites.
If you think home-based volunteering might be right for you, contact organisations you like and ask what some of the possibilities might be. Some volunteer organisations may require you to attend an initial training or periodical meetings. You also want to make sure that you are getting enough social contact, and that the organisation is available to support you should you have questions.
Can volunteering lead to paid employment?
Volunteering can really help you get a job – but not always as quickly as you’d like. To get the most out of volunteering it helps to have realistic expectations.
If you take on a volunteer role, and are committed, you will get huge benefits.
For example you can:
- Keep your skills fresh
- Get new skills and experience
- Increase your confidence levels
- Get references
The experiences you gain through volunteering will really help when you come to complete job applications and do interviews. But 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. And, volunteering should be something you actively want to do. To put it another way, you shouldn’t be volunteered – but you might want to volunteer!