As an administrator of volunteers, I have spoken with thousands of interested volunteers and interviewed hundreds of potential volunteers. The most common question I get is “What type of volunteer work do you have?” The answer to this is complicated because matching the right volunteer to the right position is not just about picking a volunteer position from a list. It is about exploring and match making.
You will want to be armed with the best tools, so that you can make informed choices before committing to an organization.
Let’s look at some things you need to know before you make contact with the volunteer program.
Some of the questions you need to ask yourself before you start your search are:
- What is your motivation?
- Are you looking to socialize, network, build skills, give something back that has meaning to you or share your expertise to name a few.
- What is your schedule like now?
- Can you give once a week, once a month or just annually?
- What type of volunteer organization do you want to be affiliated with?
Once you have a better sense of what you can give to an organization it is time to explore organizations. There are many ways to find a volunteer position. Many organizations post their positions online. There are a variety of websites including www.workopolis.ca,
www.charityvillage.com, www.volunteertoronto.ca and organizational websites. The positions posted are usually either immediate or ongoing needs but that does not mean that they are not interested in what you have to offer. Like the job market, there are many hidden positions and some of the best positions come from exploring ideas with the volunteer program. For example, I interviewed a lawyer who wanted to volunteer but only had a limited time to give, he did not want to use his law skills but he also had an MBA and through the interview process we developed a unique position where he would teach a monthly workshop to the clients on a variety of marketing strategies and how to start a small business.
These types of unique positions happen all the time. You may see a posting for a position that requires a lengthy commitment and you are not sure whether you are comfortable committing to this, but there may be other ways to feel out the organization, and get to know the clients through one off positions such as annual fundraising or special events. This is a great way to meet the staff, clients and get a feel for the culture of the organization. From that point you can take the next steps.
There are also postings in local papers, libraries, schools, as well as your internal company’s communications. You can also find information about organizations in the Directory of Community Services which is available at your local library.
Once you have chosen a few organizations to contact, you need to out some basic information about their volunteer program:
- What is the minimum time requirement?
- What is the process for applying for a position?
- What types of positions are available to volunteers?
- Is there a criminal reference check done?
- Are there medical tests? This is usually necessary when working in a hospital or with vulnerable clients.
- Where is the volunteer work located?
- How flexible is the volunteer work? Does this fit your lifestyle?
- How long do you have to volunteer before getting a reference?
- What type of orientation and training is required? It could be months before you can actually start a position or you may be able to start immediately.
Sometimes you want to know some of this information before taking the next steps but many of these areas are covered during the interview.
Other questions you may ask are:
- Can you change volunteer positions?
- What other opportunities are available to you as a volunteer?
- Are there opportunities to do more than one position?
- Are you able to work on a short term basis?
- What are the benefits to this volunteer position? Is this an organization that will help you with some of your career goals?
- Do you feel a connection with the goals of the organization?
- Can volunteering be done virtually?
It is important to do research and that you keep an open mind. As mentioned previously, there are many opportunities to help organizations in many different ways and the volunteer programs are there to help you find the best fit.
Finally, volunteering is a rewarding experience for a multitude of reasons. It gives you an opportunity to learn, network, make a connection, use your skills, help those in need, build your portfolio of experience and most importantly make a difference.