Five ways to maximize your volunteer experience

Royal Neighbors employee Amy Jones donating supplies

The gift of time is a very personal experience – you are offering something that you cannot get back. There are many benefits from this charitable activity, and it’s been part of our organization since day one. We believe volunteerism can positively impact the individual and their community.

To make the most of this experience, we have five tips to share.

Be responsive and flexible

Nonprofit organizations have many needs, and sometimes managing volunteers can be overwhelming. It’s important to understand that employing volunteers is not cost-free – staff time, supplies, follow-up, etc. are part of the process of a good volunteer experience. Many times, volunteers are managed by a paid staff person.

You can help by taking the time to understand when and why they need volunteers so you can provide the greatest value with your time. A simple question to ask is, “Where do they have gaps, and how can I help fill them?” You are striving for the sweet spot between what you can offer an organization and what they need to fulfill their mission.

Don’t over commit

Your time is valuable, and so is the staff’s time at the nonprofit. Be realistic about your skills and the amount of time you can donate.

It’s the old adage, “Do what you say, say what you mean.” If you are using a volunteer experience to develop skills, be open and upfront about this. Many nonprofit professionals would love to support you as you support their mission, but creating a shared expectation is an important step.

Nonprofits also understand that volunteer roles might not be your top priority, but they rely on you. Whether it’s delivering items you promised to donate or showing up on time to your volunteer shift, your commitment to follow-through is essential. Let them know upfront the amount of time you can realistically offer.

 Educate yourself

When you volunteer, it’s important to know what you’re supporting. Take the time to learn about the organization and make sure it aligns with your values to generate a more fulfilling experience.

Take it a step further and understand the people they serve. There are many stereotypes surrounding populations, such as the homeless and the hungry. For example, 43 percent of households using charitable food programs to make ends meet have at least one full-time worker in the household – even more have at least a part-time job.#1

Share your experience

One way to give back that we sometimes forget about is sharing our experiences with others. When your friends and colleagues hear about the value of your volunteer service, they are more likely to volunteer themselves. You might be able to build a coalition of supporters simply by spreading the word.

 Even if small, consider a financial gift
Nonprofit organizations need our time, talent, and treasure. While volunteerism is a precious gift, consider offering the organization a bit of your personal treasure.

 When you make a financial contribution, you are supporting the work needed to manage volunteers – remember that volunteering isn’t cost-free. More than 80% of all donations to charitable and nonprofit organizations in the United States come from individuals like you!#2

Charitable contributions depend greatly on who you are, how much you make, how you are donating, and the organization’s needs. Every dollar counts, and every dollar inspires! Your participation is an acknowledgment of your belief in the mission you are serving.

As a life insurance organization dedicated to women’s empowerment and grassroots volunteerism, we provide our Members with a variety of programs to support volunteerism in local communities. Learn more about your membership, and we can help you get involved today.

#1 Feeding America and Giving USA, Blackbaud Institute
#2 Philanthropy Roundtable