Volunteers are angels sent from above. Nonprofit staff are incredibly overworked doing the noble stuff everyday, and volunteers come along to help make a difference. It’s the ultimate sacrifice of time – unpaid and hard work.
When you choose to volunteer you should have some expectations of the organization you’re serving. Again, you’re sacrificing your time for them and the greater good, so a few expectations aren’t too much to ask. What exactly should you expect?
- Organization. There’s a reason this is listed first, it’s maybe the most important. When you report for your service, the organization should be ready to greet you with enthusiasm and be prepared with instructions for your time. They should NOT 1. Be flustered at your arrival 2. Forget about your arrival altogether or 3. Have no idea what tasks to give you once you’re there. Again, you’re there to help and the organization should be making the most of it.
- Communication. Another biggie. Great communication should be happening before, during, and after your service. Before: you should know exactly what to expect, where to go, and how long you will be there. During: you should be receiving updates on progress and have your questions answered. After: we’ll get into this soon, but you should be thanked and kept in the loop about other opportunities. As you and the organization get to know one another, chances are you’ll be able to find your best fit within the organization. They should recognize your joys and stay in communication with you when opportunities come up that fit your preferences.
- A role that fits your skills. Or at least the description. We know it can sometimes take time to figure out what your volunteer skills are – they are not always the same as your career and life skills! But if you do pick something you know you’re good at – say helping with marketing – you should expect that you will be doing just that. You should never show up thinking you’re helping with social media and instead end up mowing the grass (unless you offer, of course.) Your time is just way too valuable.
- Efficiency. This should already be assumed from above, but it’s still important enough to be mentioned separately. AGAIN, your time is important. When you’re giving hours of your time, it’s important that you are giving an appropriate amount of tasks so you can work efficiently – both for you and the organization.
- Knowledge. This is a no-brainer, but you should be learning! About yourself and your skills of course, but also about the organization. Organizations should know that people who know more about their cause, and can relate to it, will keep coming back to serve. With that being said, sometimes they forget that not everyone knows all the details of the work they do every single day. So ASK QUESTIONS! They are there because they have a deep passion for the cause and love to talk about it. They will be thrilled to help you come to a deeper understanding. This way, you can also leave being an advocate for the cause!
- Praise. Okay, maybe praise is too strong of a word, but you should absolutely be thanked. Whether that’s through an email, phone call, text, card, or over coffee, it is important for the organization to show you the gratitude you deserve. We know you don’t need a whole chorus showing up at your front door to sing your praises, but kind words never hurt anyone. So expect to be treated well and THANKED!
While this is just a list of just some basic expectations, we know everyone’s volunteer experience will be different. The most important thing is to know yourself, your skills, and serve in the place where your heart truly breaks (AKA where you are passionate.) Because when you’re giving time to do work for something you truly love, you will be able to find joy in all the service and find a little grace for those overworked nonprofit staff if they fall a little short.
Looking for your next volunteer opportunity? Talk to us!