So, you want to donate your time for a good cause but you’re not sure how to do it. Why not volunteer? Volunteering is a fantastic way to make a positive contribution to any organisation and the wider community. There are a number of ways to take full advantage of a volunteering opportunity.
Build a network for the future
One of the best things about volunteering is that you get to meet heaps of new people who believe in the same cause. Some of these new contacts and friends may become very important for a future career in your area of interest. So take full advantage and meet as many people as you can.
Gain skills and experience
Volunteering is a great way for you to learn specific and general skills and see first hand how a campaign works. It’ll not only show you how to go about creating change, it’ll also give you a head start for the future. So when you need to write a letter to a decision maker, organise an event or run a meeting, you’re prepared and confident.
Working as a volunteer you will learn about:
- Effective team work
- Communication strategies
- Working to deadlines
- Making and sticking to commitments
These skills are not only good for getting along in life, they’ll also look great on your resume and increase your chances of employment.
Get the inside knowledge
Joining a group that supports a specific cause is an effective and often enjoyable way to quickly learn a lot more about an issue. It’s a good way to meet people with years of experience who will happily share their knowledge. You’ll also get the latest updates on what’s happening about that issue or region of the world.
How to find the right opportunity
There are loads of worthy causes out there so how do you choose which opportunity is right job for you? Before you start, think about some of the issues below.
What are my interests?
- Are you passionate about the environment?
- Do you want to help reduce poverty or homelessness?
- Are you interested in ending racial discrimination?
What are my skills?
Through study, work or other experience, you may already have some useful knowledge or skills that will be beneficial for a community organisation. For example:
- A marketing or communications student with experience writing press releases or advertisements would be great working in a publicity or media role
- A technology guru could help an organisation launch or revamp their website
However, almost every organisation is grateful to simply have another pair of willing hands to help out, so you don’t need specialist skills.
How much time can I give?
Your availability will have an impact on what you can volunteer to do. You may be asked to make a minimum time commitment per week. This is because some organisations get a large number of volunteer enquiries and want to use their time and resources efficiently. It also means they can invest their energy in fantastic people who are committed to their cause.
Visit the our section on Volunteering for more information on volunteering in Victoria.
How to manage volunteers
You may be organising an event, getting a group together for a campaign or leading an organisation. At some stage, you will probably need to recruit and manage volunteers. It’s important to think about some of the following issues before you start calling people in to help.
Do you know what you need?
Before you start to recruit, you need to have a clear understanding of what your organisation actually needs. Identify specific tasks or projects where you need help and the kind of skills that will suit the job.
What kind of resources are going to be made available?
Think ahead about what you can realistically give to a volunteer. For example:
- Will they have access to technology and communication tools such as computers, photocopiers, mobile phones?
- Who will supervise them?
- Do they need transport to and from locations?
If you expect the volunteer to provide transport, equipment, office space or other resources, you need to warn them of the commitment in advance.
How much time do you expect them to donate to your cause?
Your volunteers will always have other commitments in their life. You need to be realistic when you tell them how much time you need.
Do you have a plan?
Once you’ve recruited enough volunteers, you need to have a structured plan to use them as efficiently as possible. A clear plan will also help to avoid them feeling over-worked or under-appreciated.
Do you have rules in place to manage the working environment?
The volunteering environment is just like a workplace. Some people might not get along or have conflicting personal styles. However there are certain things which you can plan for to make sure the volunteer’s experience is as good as possible. For example:
- Identify and manage any workplace health and safety issues
- Create and communicate policies and processes
- Brief everyone on what’s appropriate behaviour
Go Volunteer - Website for Volunteering Australia (advice and guidance on volunteering in Australia), Volunteer Skills Centre (Training and Skills Development for volunteers) and Go Volunteer (for volunteering positions).
Fundraising IP.com for information on how to draft a volunteer position description.