Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 9:12am
posted by
Ashley Douglas,

Account Executive
SOS - Association
Management Solutions

Committing to volunteer can end up being the equivalent of a part time job! It can be quite the commitment in addition to your “real job.” As you are doing your research, remember to sign up for a cause you’re passionate about, be realistic about the time commitment you are willing to dedicate to the cause, and research the organization before you sign yourself up. As you’re looking, put forth the same amount of effort into looking for a volunteer position as you would a part time job. A good volunteer posting should include:

  • Purpose of the position — how will you, as a volunteer, be working toward the project or organization’s goal?
  • Length of the volunteer term — from a few hours to the course of a few years- be sure you know what you are signing yourself up for!
  • Location of volunteering — is the project a reasonable distance? Perhaps the project is virtual — virtual volunteering is on the rise (and is commonly listed on volunteer search sites as part of the description) and making it more convenient to volunteer from the comfort of your home or office
  • Description of expected duties — be aware of what it is you will be doing. A thorough description should not leave you wondering what exactly is expected of you as volunteer. Look for a list of duties or tasks that match your needs and interests
  • Mission/vision of the organization — the description should tell a little bit about the organization, or at least have a website where you can do more research on your own
  • Training and qualifications needs — some organizations may require that you go through one of their training courses or come into the position having a certain skill set. Inquire about the qualifications that may be needed for the position before you commit. For example, if working with a youth organization, volunteers may be required to pass a background check and/or drug test.

As you begin your search, keep in mind organizations for which you have been associated with in the past at one point or another. Maybe you participated in a youth organization’s sports league as a child or volunteered at a soup kitchen in college. Can you take that involvement to the next level by volunteering to serve on their board of directors? Serving on a board doesn’t just mean giving financially, but also becoming involved in program development, community relations and networking with likeminded professionals.

As an account executive who serves board members for a living, it is always obvious when I am working with volunteer board members who have bought into the cause by doing their homework on the organization, have a history and passion with the organization, and have the right amount of time set aside each month to focus on the mission of the association.

Good luck finding a volunteer project in which you feel at home!

Ashley is SOS - Association Management Solutions’ newest staff members with 16 years experience in the nonprofit industry. She recently graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies, concentrating in Sociology and Nonprofit Administration. Ashley worked in youth programs for over fifteen years and specializes in event planning, coordinating and motivating volunteers, developing training programs and collaborative leadership initiatives. Ashley is an Arizona native who enjoys cooking, creating and baking as well as yoga and being outdoors in the Arizona sunshine in her spare time.


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Click here to read Sarah Hipolito's post, "Switching gears: How I found my place in volunteering."

Comments

Ashley,
I enjoyed reading this post. I appreciate what you wrote about putting the right amount of effort in a volunteer position like it was a real job. After taking some courses on volunteer management, I have come to learn that one of the major challenges is, getting volunteers to live up to their commitments which in turn can make the volunteer program very expensive. Research reveals that a significant portion of an organization’s volunteer base is the younger people and, typically, it’s the younger ones who may arrive thinking that their sojourn will be a piece of cake, only to discover that much is expected from them.
To address this issue, I think nonprofit organizations should implement a 15 to 30-day probation period after hiring a volunteer. During this time, volunteers would have the opportunity to prove their commitment before any hiring expenses are incurred. In addition, the organizations can charge a small membership fee for volunteers to cover any hiring costs such as background checks, training expenses, t-shirts etc.: this should help increase the retention rate of volunteers and lower hiring costs.

I thought this was a great post!
I am currently a Nonprofit Leadership and Management student and I am always looking for a great volunteer position.
It can be difficult for anyone to find a volunteer position that fits especially a student with a very busy schedule. Using these key points when looking for the perfect position will help to ensure you find the right organization and the right volunteer position.
These are also key points to remember when working within the nonprofit sector. If you are looking to recruit volunteers for your organization you want to provide all the information needed to find the right volunteer for the position.

Ashley,

I really enjoyed reading your article. As a current Nonprofit Leadership and Management student, I really enjoyed seeing this process as a sort of “guide”. I am also currently serving as the Vice President of Foundation for my sorority Delta Gamma and it is very clear that this article will help me a great deal. Part of my responsibilities as V.P. Foundation is to aid my chapter in finding service opportunities. Often times, members will discontinue a relationship with an organization because it was not a “good fit” as you say. After reading your article, I realize that many of these situations could have been avoided had they done their research (about purpose of position, length of term, location, etc). I also really like where you suggest treating your search for a volunteer position as you would a search for a part-time job. I feel as though that statement will really help searchers understand what type of mentality they need to enter their search with.

I am going to bookmark the link to your article so I can email it to the women of my chapter next semester. I am very excited to be able to use this as a tool in the future when helping girls find service opportunities, because I truly do believe that if they find the right fit, they will continue their relationship with an organization for years to come. Thank you for taking the time to share this with the ASU community.

I definitely agree with you. Stating one needs to find an organization that has a purpose you are passionate for reminds me of the quote, "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life," When one follows the guidelines you mentioned, they should be able to find a volunteer opportunity that will best fit them. I think nonprofits who seek to recruit volunteers need to make sure they offer all of the above stated in order to have the best of the best apply to their volunteer program. Descriptions shouldn't be vague or ambiguous but specific and exact in describing what the volunteer will do. If a person feels passionate and the nonprofit recognizes their hard work, the volunteer will most likely be dedicating more of their time for years to come.

Ashley,

Great blog, I couldn't agree more- everyone should do their search when considering a volunteer position or paid position within an organization. This semester alone I have taken on four different volunteer positions in four different nonprofits along with the seven classes i enrolled in. I was able to take on the volunteer positions because i was able to find organizations i had some connection with weather it was working with students, recruiting volunteers, taking on a marketing position or producing events that would work with my schedule and allow me to do work without having to be in the office five times a week for 15 hours. Sometimes doing the research and talking to the person hiring to work with your schedule can work in your favor. When you find an organization you can connect with you tend to learn more, build your networking community and find a future job with them; you just have to take things serious and be committed.

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