One of best things you can do for yourself and potentially others, is taking on a volunteer opportunity. But it can be a challenge to find one. First off, where do you want to volunteer? And even after answering that question, there are considerations. What issues do you care about? Do you want to work with a big, national or even international organization or would you rather take on something very local? These are questions only you can provide the answers to.
There is a myriad of books which can help – my favorites include How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas and A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Community. Read these or others but here's the Big Hint: Don’t get too caught up in reading and finding the perfect fit. Get out there and Do Something (great name for an organization too!) Hopefully, the suggestions above can get you started. But there are a few other tips – things to think about and look for as you’re exploring opportunities:
· Volunteering is a lot like dating: Interviewing for and accepting a volunteer opportunity is a lot like deciding to date someone – or maybe even deciding to get more serious. Make sure you have clarity from the charity on why they’re interested in you (are you special?), what skills you’ll be utilizing (are you going to be engaged or bored?), are they interested in your personal development (they truly care) and whether there are leadership opportunities (could it be a long-term commitment?); for more on this topic, click here
· The Golden Rule always applies: Seek out organizations that follow the Golden Rules of Volunteerism; volunteers are always welcome; every contribution is valued no matter what (and I mean no matter what!); and there are no “shoulds” around here – volunteers are there because they want to be there. To read further on this one, click here
· Find Opportunities for Maximum Impact– In addition to finding organizations that observe the Golden Rule (above), it’s a home run if they do a few important things for volunteers: they respect their time, offer specific orientation and training, track and measure their effectiveness with volunteers, respect boundaries, and most of all, recognize and appreciate your efforts. More on this here
Hopefully, a sound combination of knowing yourself and getting to know charities using the ideas above will point you towards a meaningful experience. But as I said above, don’t get caught up in finding what’s perfect, get out there and start by doing good.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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