Since April is National Volunteer Month, I was asked to briefly write about volunteering and how important it is for people to get involved (in some way) with their charity of choice. I do know a little something about this. Before I started working for non-profit organizations, I volunteered for a very active organization for many years. My passion for animals and adopting a pet from a shelter led me to volunteer for a local animal welfare organization because the need for help was great. I’d like to think that my contribution to this organization was of value to the dedicated people who had taken on the huge task of running the organization. I did things such as fostering animals at home, working fundraising events, administrative work, cleaning cages, socializing pets, attending meetings and being on committees. Much of it was hard work but in return, I made some good friends, learned a lot about animal health/behavior, and I felt like I was contributing to something really important. Charitable organizations, large and small, need donations without question, but there is also a need for people to give of their time and/or expertise.
An interesting fact about volunteering is that it can lead to employment which is how I landed my first job with a non-profit. According to a 2013 study issued by the Corporation for National Community Service, volunteers have 27% higher odds of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers. This may be due to volunteers gaining skills, experience and contacts which may lead to employment.
Since I have been on both sides of the volunteering fence, I would say that the best volunteer is one that can communicate his or her strengths to the organization’s volunteer coordinator. Let this person know that you are good at carpentry, that you love making phone calls and talking to people or that you are a graphic design expert. This will let them know how to best utilize you. I have found that many people become disenfranchised with an organization because they were not put to work right away. It’s very important that an organization responds quickly to inquiries by volunteers but people need to understand that many organizations become overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be tackled daily. Please, don’t give up on them; give them a call, follow-up with them. By having a conversation, you both may come up with the perfect volunteer opportunity for you. Lastly, unless an organization is looking for a supervisor, please see yourself as a worker bee – not the queen bee 🙂
How does a nationwide charitable organization like AmpleHarvest.org use volunteers? AmpleHarvest.org is a web-based resource helping to diminish hunger and malnutrition in America while helping the environment; we don’t currently have volunteers working fundraisers and we don’t have volunteers transporting produce to food pantries. Our volunteers are people who spread the word about our work to friends, family and in social media. Letting people know that they have a resource to donate excess produce from their own gardens. Our volunteers are those who download a flyer from our website to bring to their local food pantry – telling them why it’s so important to be listed on AmpleHarvest.org. There are still thousands of food pantries in America who are not registered with AmpleHarvest.org.
In closing, without volunteers, many organizations would not exist. Most are on a limited budget and cannot afford to pay salaries. Please consider contributing your time or talent to a worthy cause. If not, please donate money to a cause. So much wonderful work is being done out there – be a part of it! Try VolunteerMatch.org or allforgood.org to find volunteer opportunities in or around your community. You’ll be glad you did!