I went a bit overboard on the volunteering for a while.
Eventually it became too much and I had to scale it back.
Throughout the process, I learnt a lot about what makes a fulfilling volunteer position and what can leave you feeling burnt out.
Here are a few tips gleaned from my experience volunteering on boards, for community organisations and for Not-For-Profits.
- How much will it cost?
Find out if there is a joining or membership fee, and if you need to pay for events throughout the year.
- When and where are the meetings?
Find out how often meetings are held, whether they are compulsory, whether you can video conference in, and where they are held. If they are very regular and/or very far from where you live or work, consider whether this is practical for you.
- Is there a position description?
It’s good to be clear about what the expectations are. Sometimes the scope of what you sign up to do, and what you end up doing, are quite different. Address this from the outset by outlining what tasks you will be responsible for.
- What is the objective of the organisation?
Be clear about the purpose and objectives of the organisation and be realistic about what you can contribute.
- How much time is required?
Figure out how much time you need to allocate to meetings, reading and responding to emails, attending events and actioning agenda items. Does this align with how much time you are willing to donate?
- Does it use my expertise or is it a general position?
Does the organisation need your specific skillset or do they just need a warm body to perform generic tasks? Ask yourself if this is the best use of your time.
- Other benefits – do you like the people? Are the meetings fun? Do you get to learn and experience interesting or valuable things?
Sometimes the best thing about a meeting is the tea break. There are social and psychological benefits to volunteering that extend far beyond the work you perform. How does it make you feel? How do you feel about your fellow volunteers? Do you believe in what you are doing? If it makes you happy, it’s a lot easier to stick with it.