Happy National Volunteer Month! All April long, Repair the World will be sharing stories, fun opportunities and tips to help you give back in all sorts of ways. We’ll also highlight great causes to get involved with. Check out today’s feature, and tweet your service tips and stories to @repairtheworld #NVM.
Hey, volunteer newbies (and old-timers too): this one’s for you.
Ever wonder how to get started as a volunteer, or get the most out of the volunteering you do? Our volunteerism experts-in-residence (aka Repair the World’s staff) put their heads together to share with you their top tips for good and effective volunteering. Take a read and share your ideas below!
1. People who volunteer doing what they love live longer! No joke: according to a briefing by The Corporation for National and Community Service, research is proving that a strong relationship between volunteering and health. According to the report, “those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.” So volunteer and get super buff (well, sort of …!)
2. Make your volunteering personal. To make the greatest difference, pick a volunteer opportunity that matches something you deeply care about. The more passion the issue stirs in you, the more good you’ll ultimately do.
3. Be open-minded. Try out all different types of service – hands-on volunteering and philanthropy, short and long-term activities. You never know what will inspire you!
4. Remember: The organization you’re volunteering with is the expert – especially when it comes to the kinds of support they need! Follow their lead to learn about the issues and challenges they are experiencing, as well as the service work they’d really benefit from. Also, remember that you are also there to learn – volunteering can end up having as much of an impact on YOU as you have on the world.”
5. Don’t underestimate your impact. You can think you’re spending a year tutoring a high schooler in English and what they take away is that you came every week and made them laugh. There are many ways to make a difference!
6. Volunteering is not about glamour or high fashion. But the internal glow you get from the good you’re doing will outweigh your old New Balance sneakers and too-big college event t-shirt!
7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re volunteering – even if you are worried they are dumb! The last time I was at a soup kitchen, no one told the volunteers what time the guests would arrive. So ask, then share the info.
8. Stay positive. Sometimes volunteer opportunities are super well organized, and other times less so. Sometimes you are doing something super fun, and other times not. Maintaining a good attitude while volunteering helps to make everyone’s experience more pleasant and enjoyable.
9. Volunteer somewhere more than once. Most volunteer managers will tell you that volunteers are more effective the longer they have been at a site and understand both the explicit and implicit norms that govern it. It makes sense – the first time you do something, you are learning the ropes while volunteering. The second (and third and 30th) time you volunteer, you will be an old pro and can even teach others.
10. Don’t put it off! One of the hardest things about volunteering is getting started and saying “oh, I’ll get around to it eventually.” Stop procrastinating today: make a commitment, put a date on your calendar, and show up! You’ll be so happy you did.
What tips do you think every volunteer should know? Share them by tweeting to @repairtheworld #NVM.