How to get started with volunteering
Whether you’ve got some spare time on your hands, have a desire to give back to your local community or want to exercise your skills, you might want to try volunteering.
After all, there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that volunteering makes us happier, healthier and more connected.
That’s great! But what do you do now? This article will help you make the right preparations, choose something you’ll be interested in and make the most of the experience.
1. Ask yourself not ‘what’, but ‘why’
Paradoxically, asking yourself why you want to volunteer might better help you decide what you might want to do. What’s the most compelling reason for you wanting to volunteer? If it’s to meet new people or get involved in a community project, you’ll probably prefer a sociable role that has you working as part of a team. To unleash yourself from your desk job, you might consider a role that involves being outside, or at least on your feet a bit more. Want to offer or hone a particular skill? Search for that specific activity – or perhaps you want to help a charity that addresses a cause that’s really close to your heart, regardless of whether you’re doing admin or fundraising over the phone.
2. How much time do you have?
Be honest with yourself. It’s completely fine to commit to only 1-2 hours a week – it still makes a big difference. If your work schedule is unpredictable, you might want an opportunity that’s flexible in terms of when you put in the hours, or even one-off events where you can help out as and when. If you have a fixed schedule, you might want to commit to a regular slot so that it forms part of your routine. If you really enjoy it, the organisation will surely be happy to have you giving even more of your time! Equally, there are vacancies for full time volunteering if that’s what you’re looking for.
3. Finding a local opportunity
Scour the web for something that fits what you’re looking for. Do-it.org, LinkedIn and neighbourly.com are all good places to start. Search keywords like “gardening” or “writing” along with the town or city that you live in. On Neighbourly, you can search by tag. Alternatively, pop along to local organisations and just ask if there are volunteering opportunities available. Check out what it involves and how many hours they require. Then, either register your interest or sign up for the opportunity.
4. Arrange a meeting
This varies from organisation to organisation. Some might require you to pop along to their centre, have a quick chat on the phone or will just brief you on the day. Either way, it’s a great chance for you to get to know each other, and is a perfect opportunity to ask any questions that you might have.
5. Arrive prepared
Hopefully you’ll know in advance what is expected of you and what you need to bring on the day. Do they ask that you arrive 15 minutes before the start time? Is there a free minibus to the local farm? There is likely some information about what to wear – if you’re outside for a full day, bring some extra clothing in case the weather turns. Don’t wear your best shoes if you’re spending all day in the mud. Make sure you bring some lunch with you if it’s not provided. Again, if there’s something that’s not clear, don’t be afraid to ask beforehand.
6. Have fun!
Volunteering should ultimately be an activity that you get some personal satisfaction from, while helping others. However, if something isn’t working for you, don’t plough on in silence. Ask your supervisor if something concerns you, or if you don’t enjoy the activity, you might want to try a different role within the organisation. Perhaps you’ve realised that you should be spending more time in a people-facing position – or less – or more time outside – or less! If you feel like you’ve taken on too much, don’t be afraid to take a break. You’ll be much more refreshed and be able to give your best when you’ve had some time off. And if volunteering for that organisation just isn’t working for you – that’s okay too. You can always look for another one.
Try looking at the volunteering opportunities on neighbourly to see what exciting prospects await you today!
Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can lend a hand. Get support by creating and sharing a project or give support by following, donating or giving a day to volunteer.