Did you know most organizations have a volunteer manager? This is often the first person you talk with at an organization. Their job among other things is to recruit, train and manage volunteers. Here’s the scoop on what volunteer managers want you to know about volunteering.
- Screening comes first: Organizations must screen every volunteer to ensure the position is right for them and ensure volunteer safety. Processes vary for different organizations but expect to go through an interview, police check and orientation before you start a volunteer role. You can also use the screening process to see if an organization is right for you by asking questions and observing their practices.
- Your skills and interests matter: Think of your skills and hobbies – you can utilize those in your volunteer role. If it’s not obvious how you can use your skills, talk to the volunteer manager about what you can contribute. Your interests might be the perfect match for an organization’s need.
- The organization needs you: Every volunteer is a vital member of the organization. Being punctual and present at assigned shifts or events contributes to the success of each effort. If there’s an emergency or you’re sick, let your volunteer manager know you won’t be at your shift.
- You’re appreciated: Volunteer managers want to recognize your contributions to the organization. They might host a volunteer appreciation event, send thank you cards or give a gift. You should participate in these events and engage with other volunteers. Your contribution matters!
The Benefits of Volunteering:
Volunteering is a way to give back to your community and impact the lives of others. The great thing about volunteering is that it also affects the life of the giver. These three benefits of volunteering may surprise you.
Health: Volunteering can have positive effects on your physical health. Volunteer Canada in their ‘Volunteering and healthy aging’ resource note that a study done of 500 volunteers over 30 years revealed only 36% of participants had a major illness compared to 52% of people who did not volunteer. Many volunteer activities involve being active and on your feet. Your physical health can get a boost just by volunteering.
Career & Professional Development: Volunteering is a great way to explore a new career path and gain valuable professional experience. Find a volunteer role where you can develop the skills you’d like to apply in your professional life. You can also list your volunteer experience on your resume to help you describe your interests and personality to a potential employer in a different way.
Social: Meeting new people can be difficult. Volunteering is a great way to make new social connections. The great thing about meeting friends while you volunteer is they probably share similar values and interests since you’re volunteering for the same organization.
These are just three examples but you never know what else volunteering might do for you, the benefits are endless!
What to expect from organizations when applying to become a volunteer
- Volunteer application: The first step to volunteering is usually a basic application asking for your name, contact information, availability, emergency contacts and other information that relates to the volunteer role.
- Interview: A volunteer interview is a great way for organizations and volunteers to learn more about each other. Volunteer interviews vary between organizations, but expect them to ask your motivation for volunteering and scenario questions related to the volunteer role.
- Police Information Check or Vulnerable Sector Check: An organization may request your information to obtain a police information check or a child welfare check. A police information check is a screening tool that gives the organization information about your past criminal record. A vulnerable sector check lets the organization know if you have a police record of posing a risk to vulnerable people. Depending on your volunteer role, you may need one or both of these checks to ensure that you, other volunteers, and the people involved with the organization are all safe.
- Training/Orientation: Organizations provide training and orientation to teach you more about their cause, staff and what you’ll be doing in your role. Attending training is important to get started on the right foot. Many training and orientation sessions are mandatory to begin volunteering.
- Volunteer contract: A volunteer contract is the agreement between you and the organization. The contract might include the hours you are committing to give, your responsibilities as a volunteer as well as those of the organization.
So you want to volunteer. That’s great! Have you decided how to launch yourself into the unknown world of volunteerism? Here are some tips to get you started.
Step 1: Self-reflect:
Take the time to answer these three easy questions.
- What are you passionate about?
- What skills do you have?
- How much time do you have to commit?
After reflecting, your passion for animals and photography could lead you to volunteering as an event photographer for a local animal organization. Alternatively, your reflection could lead you to discover other skills you want develop and different causes to explore. Self-reflection is a great way to frame your volunteer search and help lead you in the right direction.
Step 2: Do some research:
Now that you know what might interest you, its time to find an organization that matches. You can skip to step three if you already know were you want to volunteer. If you’re not sure, search volunteer matching sites such as govolunteer.ca or do an internet search of the volunteer area you want to pursue in your city. There are many organizations looking for volunteers so you could be overwhelmed with the results. However taking the time to search “animal organizations Edmonton” could very well lead you to discovering an organization you did not know existed.
Step 3: Ask questions
Once you’ve found an organization you like, contact them about their available volunteer opportunities. Be sure to ask questions to understand what the volunteer role entails. Here are some basic questions to frame your conversation with the organization’s volunteer coordinator.
- What activities will you be performing?
- Is there an interview process?
- What is the length of commitment to this organization?
- What is the schedule you will be working?
- What flexibility exists around doctor’s appointments, emergencies etc.?
- Is there any additional training or an orientation session that you have to attend?
Just like any new commitment, choosing the right volunteer opportunity doesn’t happen by accident. Be patient. Know what you want to give and what you want to get from the experience. Your first volunteer experience may be the beginning of a wonderful adventure.