Finding Your Feet in a World of Giving: 7 Tips to Discover Your Volunteering Match
Volunteering has become a well-known doorway to conscious giving, with over six million Australians alone now donating their time and skills to a vast array of volunteer roles across the country every year. And why not? The benefits of volunteering are both well documented and pretty spectacular: an increased connection to community, broadening social networks, learning and developing skills, boosting career options, accessing new experiences, meeting a diverse range of people and unleashing the satisfaction, love and achievement that comes from knowing you have contributed to something bigger than yourself. Let’s face it, the reasons to get involved in a volunteer role are significant.
Personally, I have found little in life that has surprised my heart with the joy and connection that volunteering does, and for this reason it is no surprise that I have fought my schedule to include time fulfilling volunteer roles alongside even my most stressful professional positions and busiest family times. As a Life and Confidence Coach, I now watch clients discover their greatest passions through the opportunities that have unfolded through an abundant openness to giving.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to taking the ‘volunteering leap’ and no matter how you go about it, donating to a cause is powerful. Despite this, I have heard countless stories from people who have chosen never to volunteer purely because they have believed long-standing myths that volunteer opportunities are limited to selling sausages outside of a hardware store on a Saturday morning or joining a Board of Directors and that in order to be a purposeful volunteer you need to donate eight hours a week, every week, for the rest of your life.
If you are someone who has wanted to volunteer but felt bamboozled by the process, or found yourself falling out-of-love with an existing volunteer role, from my heart to yours, here are my seven top tips for finding your perfect volunteering match:
1. Know your ‘why’ and what you stand for.
Before even considering volunteer opportunities, get clear on WHY you are choosing to volunteer and what you are personally looking for from the experience. Knowing your ‘why’ will support you to look for roles that align with what is most important to you. Likewise, identifying causes that concern you or spark passion will support your inner compass to point towards something that feels truly purposeful to you when you are ready to take the volunteer plunge.
Dig deeper with these questions:
– Why am I choosing to volunteer?
– What am I looking for from the volunteer experience?
– What issues am I passionate about?
– Which cause do I find my mind wandering back to?
– What are my personal values?
2. Define what you bring.
I love the Henry Van Dyke quote “Don’t be scared to use the talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sing best” – and this is how it is with us all. I have seen more people than I can count approach volunteering thinking that all they bring to a volunteer role is time, muscle and heart (hello moving boxes and packing hampers!), when there is so much more that lies within them.
Sometimes organisations DO need generous and dedicated people to invest time into packing products or completing administration tasks – many not-for-profit organisations I have worked with require this most from volunteers due to the existing expertise in their staff team – but we all bring a unique combination of skills, talents, characteristics and experiences to everything that we do in life that should not be overlooked. Consider the skills you will bring from other areas of your life to a volunteer role. Skills-based volunteering is on the rise and the world needs more of what you’ve got!
Dig deeper with these questions:
– What skills do I possess?
– How could I help others by using these skills?
– What makes me happy?
– How could I surround myself with these things whilst contributing in a positive way?
– What personal characteristics am I proud of?
– How could these characteristics support a cause?
You are the best volunteer and conscious contributor you can be when you are no-one but yourself. Period.
3. Do your research.
Finding the most personally-appropriate organisation or group to contribute to in an already flooded market of incredible work can feel daunting. While Google is great for the inside scoop on what is available, there are also some targeted things we can research to ensure we are choosing purposefully without setting ourselves or our good intentions up to fail:
The organisation’s values;
The time commitment;
The length of time you can be in the role; and
How the organisation distributes their funds (what percentage of funding is used in administration and overheads without ever reaching its target group?).
Dig deeper with these questions:
– What are the organisation’s / group’s values? How to these shine through their work? Do they match my own personal values?
– What is the time commitment of volunteering with them? Can I make that work amongst the other roles, personal needs and responsibilities I have in my life?
– Where would I need to base myself? Does this location suit?
– Is there a minimum / maximum time to be involved? Can I commit to that?
4. Ask around.
There are volunteers EVERYWHERE. Don’t be shy in asking for people’s experiences with organisations, roles and volunteering in general – you never know what you might uncover!
(Side note: it is amazing how quickly something can come into reality when we begin publicly announcing that we are ready for it.)
5. Meet and greet.
Arrange a meeting with key contacts at any organisation you are considering volunteering for so that your questions may be answered while you also get a feel for the work-culture amongst existing staff and volunteers. Go with your gut.
6. Be clear on your boundaries.
It breaks my heart to see fantastic volunteers burn out because they have taken on too much in their volunteer role, either through avoiding saying ‘no’ or by being led by their passion for what’s best for a cause. Know within yourself what you are able to commit to and don’t be scared to articulate it – if you are unable to serve your own self-care needs, you may not be sustainable in any role.
7. Set your intention.
What we focus our attention on grows, and there is so much power in mindfully setting an intention before entering any activity. How do you want to feel while you give? How are you going to show up? Holding an intention close will help bring the best of yourself to the forefront.
Looking for ways to consciously give without committing to an organisation or a formal role? Wonderful. Give money. Give a reason for someone not to give up. Give a chance. Give a letter. Give hope. Give a random act of kindness. Give a smile. Give love. Just give.