Are You Engaged in Your Volunteer Journey?

Are you engaged in your volunteer journey?

Guest post by Sam Bagnato

The reasons people volunteer are often personal ones.

Volunteerism is also critical to society and is recognized as an essential source of sociability, personal satisfaction, and self-validation over one’s course of life. What’s more, people often volunteer for various reasons and motives.

So what’s yours? And how can you make sure your volunteer journey is an engaging one?

Let me share a few insights following a research study I’m currently conducting which include five prospective volunteers who all want to volunteer for different reasons.

The participants of the study were asked to register their interest to volunteer for an Australian nonprofit organization. The study then followed the journey of each prospective volunteer leading up to their first information session, where they discussed the organization and potential volunteer roles and opportunities.

The study demonstrates that each prospective volunteer — along with their respective motivations — have an expectation and experience. In this particular example, the nonprofit organization has an 8-step volunteer recruitment process, and, once you register your interest, it is mandatory to attend the first information session.

Following the information session, each prospective volunteer was asked to complete a feedback form. The form helps the nonprofit obtain a qualitative view of their volunteers’ experience and gauge whether they think they’ll continue volunteering with the organization.

I conducted and facilitated a focus group session with the potential volunteers, which also lead to further insight into their engagement. The final outcome of the study concluded that, although the potential volunteers each had positive motives and attitudes toward volunteering, their volunteer journey — which commenced during the informational session  — was not an entirely engaging one.

That’s one reason VolunteerMatch created this blog — to arm volunteer program managers with the knowledge, resources, and strategies to continue engaging their volunteers. At the end of the day, we’re all human, so what can you do from your end to ensure you have an engaging volunteering experience?

Here are some tips, insights, and strategies you can leverage when considering to volunteer.

Tip 1: Know Your Reasons

Why do you want to become a volunteer? Is it for educational reasons, the social interaction, or do you want to make a difference in your community? Once you decide your reason(s) for volunteering, it’ll be a lot harder to convince yourself not to. It’s rewarding for both you and the organization — just remember to pursue a volunteer opportunity for the right reasons.

Tip 2: Research Potential Organizations

If you’ve decided to volunteer, why? What type(s) of organizations appeal to you? Nonprofit organizations are always looking for quality volunteers — especially in the healthcare space where, from my personal experience, I observed that resources are limited and volunteers are always in demand.

Virtual volunteering is also in demand. As more and more organizations continue to build their online presence, they’ll likely require more assistance remotely.

Tip 3: Meet Others Volunteers

I would recommend organizing a meeting with current volunteers to discuss what it’s like and what their experiences have been. The insights they can provide will be extremely valuable in making the right choice for you to volunteer, and might even help you decide on an organization that appeals to your passion.

Tip 4: Look Online and on Social Media

Volunteers like to provide feedback online. You’ll especially hear from them during National Volunteer Week, where lots of testimonials and case studies appear on social media, so be sure you’re on the lookout. 

You may also find reviews of organizations and volunteer opportunities directly on VolunteerMatch by visiting the organization’s profile page.

Tip 5: Create Your Own Opportunities

If you’re feeling stuck or haven’t found a particular volunteer opportunity that suits your needs, why not create your own? Organizations love a pro bono opportunity, so if a particular organization doesn’t have what you’re looking for, just reach out to them and let them know what type of services you can provide.

For example, I provide a virtual volunteer service to a nonprofit organization in Australia where I help them with digital services and other online assistance — even event management. Although I work full-time and study in the evening, I truly know I am making an impact on their visions and goals, and that’s why I do what I do.

Have a tip to add? Share it with us in the comments below!

Author Bio: Sam Bagnato is a communications specialist currently in the healthcare sector. He is undertaking his Masters in Digital Media with a focus on research communications in volunteer engagement.

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