By: Helios on October 4th, 2013

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5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Volunteer Opportunities

Community | Benefits | Best Practices

While many organizations face financial cutbacks and a reduction in workforce, the staff that remains in place is being asked to do tasks that are not only outside of their job scope, but often times outside of their comfort zone. Add to that, the summer months are now exiting and Fall is making an entrance, along with its shorter days and longer nights, and the feeling that there are not enough hours in the day is a sentiment that is being expressed by many.  Therefore, being asked to squeeze in just one more thing, is enough to drive some off the deep end.  So, when flyers are posted and emails are sent out asking for volunteers for charitable causes, undoubtedly some ask out loud: “Who has time for that?”  While others ask: “Where can I sign up?”  Ask yourself, which one are YOU?

Vol·un·teer: a person who does work without getting paid to do it (as defined by Merriam-Webster).

Volunteering, while admittedly can be quite time consuming in an already jammed packed life, can be one of the best opportunities that you ever experience.

Here are five tips to ensure that you make the most out of your volunteer experience:

1. Choose Wisely: According to NCCS Table Wizard, there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the US alone.  As such, narrowing down a list of people and places to lend your time, talent and resources can be a difficult task.  Find an organization or a cause that is meaningful for you and volunteering for it will never seem like work.  Likewise, pick an organization or cause that means nothing to you and you may end up being more of a hindrance than a help.  Choose wisely to ensure that no one’s time or resources are being wasted.

2. Execute Proper Preparation: You raised your hand, now show up ready to put in the work. Dress appropriately; bring your sincerity, enthusiasm, and your sense of humor. Research the organization or cause to speak intelligently about their need and your ability to provide help. Plan accordingly so that you are able to commit to the time and resources that you have offered, and do not over commit yourself.

3. Recruit, Recruit, Recruit: Since time waits for no one, the clock will keep on ticking and life will continue no matter what you are doing… even when you are volunteering.  So bring out the troops! Recruit friends, family members and colleagues to join you at a volunteer event and you will create an opportunity to spend time together while making a difference for someone or something else.

4. Pause For The Cause: While I am certain that everyone in your social media circle would love to see constant updates on their timelines of all the goodwill you are spreading, use the opportunity to live in the moment focusing more on the gift that you are giving to those who have a need, rather than the perfect angle for your “selfie”.  View this as a serious yet, rewarding opportunity, and approach it as such.

5. Do It Again (and again): A large part of volunteering is building relationships. The more people volunteer the more relationships are built. Try new volunteer opportunities often and once you find something that you love, spread the word and volunteer again and again.

By applying these tips you are sure to make the most out of your best unpaid job experience. The next time the flyers go up and the emails are sent out, you may even be excited to say “Where can I sign up?”