I love volunteering. It’s something anyone can do and it’s an easy and fun way to give back to the community. That being said, after volunteering for several thousands of hours and volunteer coordinating for a few hundred, there are a couple of tips that I would give for volunteering.
- Be prepared -Read any training material that the organization sends to you beforehand and know what your volunteer role is if specified. Volunteer Coordinators (VC) try and make the orientation process as short as possible, which is why we send out some information about volunteering or the organization beforehand. Also if you know what role you are supposed to be doing it saves us reading out a list of 100 names and telling everyone their roles again.
- Be punctual -Be on time. While not as serious as coming to work late, VCs do appreciate it when you show up on time. Showing up a whole hour early though is a bit overkill. If you are going to be late, a call would be appreciated. Check out when leaving because at the very least VC like to keep a count of volunteers. VCs generally also like to thank you and there may even be a small reward for your time and effort.
- Be flexible -Be prepared to do a wide variety of tasks. Needs often shift and volunteers may be missing.
- Relax -Oftentimes you wouldn’t be feverishly working when you are volunteering. VCs don’t want people to be stressed and drained after volunteering. VCs also tend to over recruit. Also while the volunteer task you are given is important, it is likely that life will continue to function if something goes marginally wrong with it. Just relax, go with the flow and have a good time.
- Socialize -While volunteering be prepared to talk to your fellow volunteers, clients and any employees that may be there. Coming with friends is great but try and welcome others to the conversation too.
- Be Proactive but don’t reinvent the wheel -If you feel utterly useless or bored, go ahead and ask if there is anything else that needs to be done. VCs welcome you to be proactive and do something if it needs doing, but there is no need to go crazy and completely reorganize absolutely everything.
- Be considerate -There is often a broader range of people volunteering then you may see at your typical workplace. Children, seniors and people with disabilities often volunteer. Please be considerate and respectful of everyone. It’s fun to interact with people that you normally wouldn’t. There is nothing worse than a volunteer that makes others feel bad. It does not matter if you do triple the amount of work they do, unless given a management or supervisory role you are not here to manage and rate other volunteers. As a volunteer coordinator I would like to ensure that everyone has a good and rewarding time, while work gets done.
- Have fun – Most importantly have fun. You aren’t getting paid to be here so make sure that you are enjoying your time, at least to some degree. If your volunteer experience could be made better, talk to your VC.