Volunteering is not only good for our communities, it is also good for us! There are myriad benefits associated with volunteer service, including improving health and wellness, gaining additional work experience and new skills, strengthening one’s sense of purpose, and meeting new people – just to name a few.
If you have made the decision that you would like to volunteer, there are some factors to consider as you investigate opportunities.
First, your volunteer experience will be far more enjoyable if you identify your interests and your goals. What are your passions? What causes do you care most about? What do you enjoy doing? When you can match your interests and your passions with organizations that have similar ones, you are on the way to identifying volunteer options to consider.
People volunteer and join organizations for many different reasons. Some are interested in improving conditions for others less fortunate, some want to meet people and expand their social circle, some want to give back by sharing (time, treasure or talent), and some may simply want to try new things! Whatever your reasons, the best way to have a fun and fulfilling volunteer experience is to match your personality and interests with those of the organization.
If you have identified your goals, passions, reasons for wanting to volunteer, a second step is to be certain your personal commitment matches what an organization or group needs. Answering questions that are similar to ones you review for a good job interview will help:
Do I like to be part of a team or do I like to work alone? If I’m still working, how much time can I actually commit to service opportunities? What skills do I want to use on a volunteer assignment? Can I fulfill attendance expectations or do I need to find virtual or online gatherings?
Your next task will be to find where the volunteer opportunities exist. There are hundreds of local possibilities in your community: senior centers, libraries, established service organizations like Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, Business and Professional Clubs, etc., animal shelters, community theaters, youth organizations, places of worship such as churches and synagogues and other civic groups. There are also databases that can help match your interests with opportunities. Check out VolunteerMatch, LinkedIn for Good, or others that a “Google Search” will uncover.
Once you have explored these issues and found potential volunteer possibilities, it’s time to visit (in person or online.) Don’t limit yourself to visiting just one; get around to all that you discover. Often an organization and its mission and operations look good on paper, but the real experiences don’t match. Ask questions and be sure you understand the expectations of volunteers. Pay attention to how you are greeted, how the other members, volunteers or staff treat you while you are visiting, and whether there is any sincere follow up after your visit. Make sure you choose an organization that provides a good “fit” and your volunteer experience will be fun, will benefit the community, and ultimately, will change you for the better!
Next time, the focus will be on Rotary International and how the organization’s missions and vision have positioned it to be a relevant and irresistible service experience for volunteers of all ages.
Dr. Stephanie Urchick is an active community volunteer and is a Rotary International Director, 2019-2021. She can be reached at email@example.com. Our local communities are proudly served by three Rotary Clubs: Canonsburg-Houston-Southpointe, McMurray, and Washington, PA. You can explore Rotary by visiting the websites of those clubs or at www.rotary.org.