What Questions Should You Ask Before Volunteering?

Guest Post by Pat Fredshaw

Ask More QuestionsToo many new volunteers begin this process by asking “What am I good at doing?”

Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s not a terrible question, but it most certainly isn’t the best one you should ask yourself either. After all, should you volunteer doing something you’re good at or something you want to get better at? Think of volunteering as a way to gain new skills you might not have gained through your career.

Volunteering offers a unique set of opportunities to those who welcome it. And that means you can’t approach it like anything else. So what questions should you ask yourself before volunteering?

1. Where can I make a difference?

Ultimately, volunteering is about making a difference — in your community and to those around you. It’s about helping a cause where it’s needed most. The bigger the difference you make, the more meaningful your contribution will feel and be .

And that, ultimately, is what volunteering is about, isn’t it? Making as much of a difference as we possibly can.

2. What do I care about?

If you don’t care about where you’re volunteering, then it’s going to be hard to stick around. Volunteering might look good on your college application or your resume, but the more we care about the cause, the easier it will be stick around despite the demands it makes on our time and the amount of effort involved. In fact, the more we care about a cause, the more fulfilled and happier we’ll be.

And that has to matter more than whether we’re good at what needs to get done. And besides, it’s not like we can’t get better at learning new skills, right? In fact, that’s another important question to ask.

3. Where can I grow as a person?

Volunteering offers the unique opportunity for you to learn a set of skills that in the working world might be closed off to you. And so, as you give your time and your effort, what you hope to take back is a set of skills that you otherwise might not have learned elsewhere.

In that sense, volunteering becomes mutually beneficial. The place you volunteer at becomes better off (the more you grow the better off they’ll be), and you become a more well-rounded person with a new set of skills and ideas to venture out into the world with.

Now that’s win-win, isn’t it?

4. Does this fit in with vision and my ethics?

Some people live for money. Some people live for prestige. Good people live to make the world a better place. To belong to this final category you have to make sure that what you’re doing is in line with your code of ethics and moral values.

So before deciding whether you want to volunteer, or which nonprofit you want to volunteer with, ensure their ideas and motivations are in line with your own.

Are their means justified or is it only the ends they care about? Consider these questions. Think hard about the answers. And then, only then, decide if volunteering and/or this volunteer opportunity is right for you.

Ready to get started? Find a way to volunteer on VolunteerMatch.org.

Author Bio: Pat Fredshaw is a contributor on Essay Supply and freelance writer from Oakland, California. She enjoys traveling around the world. Connect with her on Twitter!