There are a number of questions you should ask before volunteering regarding your fit with the organization and your about your overall motivation.
Let’s dig into it. . .
What Questions Should You Ask Before Volunteering?
There are important questions to ask before volunteering that you should consider. Here is a list:
1. What do I most want to learn from the experience?
Our number one advice to all prospective volunteers is that you must have a desire to learn in your volunteer role. If you’re thirsty for more education, developing new skills, learning new cultures – this is what will keep you going in down times. . . and believe us, there will be down times.
2. What are my volunteering goals?
To piggyback on the previous question, you must know what your goals are before heading into your role. Do you have personal goals? Has the organization given you goals to strive for? What are they?
We suggest to write them down. All goals are easier defined in writing and it will give you the added benefit of being able to see them every day and re-focus your energy.
Perhaps you want to raise X amount of dollars. Or learn a new language. Maybe you just want to meet new people – whatever it is that’s cast your desire to volunteer, write it down!
3. How much time can I commit?
This is always hugely important when talking about beginning a volunteer role. It is better for your personal well-being, the organization’s scheduling, and the entire team’s comradery if you own up to your own personal limits before committing to anything.
Whether it be a few hours a week or one day a month – set your limit and be open about it with your prospective organization.
4. How flexible am I in my role?
You will also have to consider your wants and vision to answer this question; What is it that you really want to do?
Are you flexible in your day-to-day role? Are you focused on one type of role and don’t want to move from it? Do you want to be a handyman open to anything the organization throws your way?
All of these things are important to consider and talk about with the organization before your first day. Having your role defined is something that can reassure you when times are trudging.
5. How much guidance do I want / need in the role?
This is always a big one. Similar to the concern you would have when starting a new role at a new company, you want to know how much guidance will be provided when getting started.
This is usually for people who have in mind long-term volunteering. Will there be someone there to help you along the way as you begin this role? Will you also have the space you need to do things your own way?
Make sure to figure out what kind of position you’ll be in on your first week.
6. What do I know about the country?
This is another question to ask yourself before volunteering; Where? Where will you be volunteering? You probably have a preference but why is your preference what it is?
Ask yourself what you know about the country/ location, what you should learn about the place before you go, if you need to learn language basics, cultural norms, or cultural no-no’s.
It is important to have a semi-grasp on where you will land so that you can ‘hit the ground running’, so to speak.
7. Are there any associated expenses?
For those on a tight budget, knowing all the expenses and financial expectations is important. Is there a program fee? What does the money from the program fee pay for? Are you reimbursed for the flight ticket (probably not)?
What about accommodation – first of all, where will you stay, but secondly, will you be required to pay for it? Daily transportation costs? At-work costs?
Another unique question you can ask yourself – are you capable of covering your own personal organizational expenses and eating some of the burden the organization takes on just for having you? We often think that organizations should be bowing at our feet for sacrificing our time to them, but we forget that experiences like this do have fees and if we are capable of covering our own, that financial support can go along way in furthering the cause.
8. How can I best use my existing skills?
Learning new skills on the ground in your volunteer role is one thing, however, it’s another to make yourself as useful as possible as quickly as possible. This means utilizing your present skills and turning them into something handy for the mission.
Are you a web developer? Perhaps instead of planting trees, your time would be more useful helping the organization fix holes in their website which is preventing growth.
Do you know the latest trends on Instagram? Maybe you can revamp the organization’s out-dated social media strategy.
9. Are there former volunteers to speak to?
One great way of seeing into an organization’s volunteer program is by speaking to people who have been through it. . . former volunteers.
Does the organization have an ‘alumni’ network? Are there people who would be able to field your questions who are not immediately involved with the organization? This is a good way to get some reliable answers if you’re on the fence about things.
10. How transparent is the organization?
Lastly, take a look at what the organization shares with the general public and how much they keep behind the scenes. It’s always a good indication of who you are dealing with and what kind of experience you can expect.
Of course, if an organization doesn’t reveal openly their entire spending report, it doesn’t mean it is full of crooks and bad people. But now is your chance to do some investigative work and see if you can find out a little bit more of what goes on behind the curtain.
At the very least, try to find a statement on their spending policy.
Know Your Reasons Before Volunteering!
If you have asked yourself these questions and found yourself comfortable with the answers you can provide, it seems you’ve found yourself the right fit.
Volunteering is not for everyone. There are reasons, too, why 75% of Americans don’t volunteer. However, in our opinion, if you have enough desire to find the right role and organization for you, there is always opportunity.
If you’re interested in hearing more about our program – from either a volunteer standpoint or as a partnering organization, feel free to contact us to apply!