Donating Your Expertise: Do’s and Don’tsNov 28, 2023
If you have been thinking about volunteering, it’s understandable to be anxious about jumping right in. Getting involved can feel overwhelming when you aren’t sure what steps to take first and who to ask for help. The good news is that while it can be complicated, donating your time and expertise is simple. And the best part is that it’s fun!
Volunteering doesn’t have to mean spending long hours at a shelter or soup kitchen or even getting dirty cleaning up after a flood. There are many different ways to volunteer depending on your interests and availability.
Some people choose to volunteer with their friends or family members; others prefer to do it alone. If you decide to go it alone, start small by volunteering for one day per week at your local shelter or soup kitchen. You can also look online for opportunities in your area that match your interests and schedule.
But there are some things you should keep in mind when you’re volunteering.
Here are some dos and don’ts:
Do volunteer for causes and projects you believe in. Volunteering means more than just showing up—it means showing up with energy, enthusiasm, and dedication! You want to make sure that the time you spend volunteering is meaningful for both you and the organization or cause you support.
Do set healthy boundaries so you don’t burn out. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed out by your volunteer work, it might be time for a break! Or maybe even time for a change of scenery.
Do keep an open mind until you learn the ropes. There will always be some things that take getting used to when doing volunteer work, so try not to judge yourself too harshly if things aren’t going smoothly right away! Once again: it takes time to adjust! Just remember why you chose this particular project or organization in the first place—and keep going forward from there!
Don't minimize the value of your role. When you volunteer at an organization, it is important that you understand your role, but also that you don’t minimize its importance. This can be especially challenging if the organization has less than stellar communication skills or if they don’t seem like they value you as much as you hoped they would. Keep in mind that sometimes organizations have trouble communicating because they are struggling with their own internal issues (which doesn't make them bad people!).
Don't be afraid to make changes. A volunteer opportunity can be what you make it! If you don't like something about the way something is being done (or not done), speak up! Volunteer coordinators want their programs to be successful, and they may love your suggestions for how things could work better. You might even find yourself leading the charge on new initiatives or taking on more responsibilities than you expected!
Don't forget to try something new. Volunteering is all about giving back, but it also gives you an opportunity to learn new skills or explore areas of interest that may not be available at your job. Don’t hesitate when given a chance for hands-on experience with something new!
Volunteer for causes that matters to YOU most
Your time is precious, so make sure to find opportunities to volunteer that resonate with your beliefs and the causes that matter most to you. Maybe you're an expert in project management but have a heart for animals—consider volunteering to coordinate an annual fundraiser for the local animal shelter. It's not just about combining the best of your talents with the causes you are passionate about; it's also about making sure that what matters most to you gets done!
Set some boundaries so YOU don't get yourself burned out
You know what they say: “If you give a project an inch, it will ask for a mile.”
It goes without saying that volunteering can be pretty stressful—especially if it’s your first time. You have to figure out how to get involved, where to go, and what exactly you are supposed to do. It can be overwhelming!
Setting boundaries for your volunteer work is a key to making it sustainable. When you feel like you’re giving a project too much of your time, it can be easy to just keep giving and giving, but that’s not good for anyone—especially you!
I know that can be hard to remember when you’re volunteering because you care about the cause and want to do everything in your power to help make it succeed. But if you don’t take care of yourself, it won’t matter how many hours you put into something—you will burn out and then have nothing left to give when things get tough.
Remember that while we all need support at times (and perhaps more than ever now), we also have lives outside of volunteering. That means we need personal time too.
Be patient and take the time to properly train for your role in the project.
While it is important to stay on top of your skillset, it’s also important to realize that everyone has something they can offer. Even if it’s just stepping up and getting involved with something new, there are always opportunities for people who want to volunteer their time and energy to help others out!
Make sure you know what's expected of you- Once you're fully trained and ready to go, make sure that you have a clear understanding of what's expected of you day-to-day in your role as a volunteer. If there are any surprises or changes, let us know—it's not fair if we've made assumptions about what will happen with your time here based on past experiences!
Remember that volunteering is vital and important
A lot of people think that volunteering is a thankless job, but we want to make sure that you know how important you are. No matter how big or small your role in a project, you are making a difference.
There's a saying: not everyone can be in a parade, some have to stand on the curb and wave. And sometimes there are high profile aspects of volunteering, but many times volunteering looks thankless and comes disguised as work. Know that every role in a project is important, whether it's handing out flyers or giving tours.
We believe every volunteer is vital and important because no matter what your job is, you are helping people see the bigger picture and understand just how much their time and effort means to us all!
Don't be afraid to change paths
Sometimes it's hard to know whether or not you should keep going with something you're doing. But here's the thing: if you feel like something isn't right for you, then it probably isn't.
You may dive into a volunteering project only to find yourself disinterested or looking for something different. Don’t be afraid to change paths. It’s fine to shift your focus to another project or volunteer in more than one way in your community. Don’t ever feel badly if you decide to stop or change your volunteerism.
If you've found yourself wanting to do something else, then trust that feeling! You're on the right track!
Keep Things New and Fresh
You don’t have to stick with one organization for years on end—it’s okay if you want to switch things up every once in awhile! There are plenty of ways to get involved and make an impact.
Volunteering should be fun and inspiring, not something you dread.
There are plenty of times when you find yourself volunteering because you're trying to get out of a bad situation or because someone is making you do it. But if that's the only reason why, then it's time for a change!
Make sure your volunteering experience is one that makes your heart sing and boosts your spirits, not drags them down.
Once you’ve decided to volunteer, be mindful of these dos and don’ts to ensure you make the most of your time and energy.
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