Becoming a volunteer and offering your free time to help others is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
From helping at events, to home visits with vulnerable people, becoming a trustee, or even providing virtual tech support to help charities get up to speed with the ‘new normal’ , the opportunities are endless, so it can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming knowing where to get started!
Whether you are looking to take on a new challenge and learn new skills or simply just want to help out within your community, a little bit of preparation will help you and those in need get the most out of volunteering.
Identify your priorities
Look at the reasons why you would like to volunteer. Is to learn new skills, meet other people, make a difference, do some good, or all of the above?
Consider your values. What values do you hold most closely and how can they help guide your decision-making?
Understanding what’s important to you and the reasons why you would like to volunteer is a great place to start.
Think about who or what is inspires you. Have you seen something recently that has triggered a desire to volunteer or given you an idea of how you can help others?
What is it that interests you? Do you like to be outdoors, surrounded by lots of people, or prefer to work from home or at a computer?
Think of the skills that you have and ways in which they can be put to good use. Alternatively, if there is something new you have always wanted to do, write it down and try to match with possible opportunities as a way of learning. Volunteering can be a great opportunity to develop a new skill.
Whether you have a little or lots of time to give, there are opportunities out there to suit all demands.
Consider how much time you can realistically dedicate to volunteering each day/week/month. Being able to set this out from the start will help both you and the organisation you are working with understand and manage expectations.
Make sure you factor in time for leisure activities and downtime out-with work and volunteering as maintaining enough time for yourself will keep you motivated.
Getting to know more about the organisation you would like to volunteer for or an opportunity that appeals to you is a great way to discover if the role is right for you. Explore their website and social media channels, or any other resources you can draw on, for examples of the previous work they have carried out and balance it against your hopes and expectations.
Look to the future
Volunteering offers up so many opportunities to learn and develop.
You may be considering a career change or are just starting out in the world of work, either way these opportunities can really benefit future employment prospects and in some cases lead to gaining new qualifications.
Look for roles which may be relevant to any future plans you may have. These don’t have to be too obvious. Helping at an event can show organisational skills, whereas befriending requires effective communication.
You should also consider the online world in which we find ourselves – many charities are bringing their volunteering roles to your laptop. The world we live in is changing around us and many not-for-profit organisations are rethinking the way they approach, and engage with, volunteering.
Think about how the skills you have could support an organisation into a more digital vision of volunteering. Or how you could help address the barriers to access with digital support.
Reap the benefits
Regardless of why you choose to do it or in what form, volunteering is a great way to learn new skills, challenge yourself, create a sense of purpose and belonging and gain confidence all whilst making a difference in the community.
It is also known to improve people’s social connections and is positively associated with improved mental health and wellbeing.
Most importantly, have fun! Focus on activities that provide variety and enjoyment, so that helping others also helps you!
If you want to know more about how volunteering can benefit you or your employees, please get in touch!