‘Tis the season for giving, and International Volunteer Day today, December 5, is the perfect time to consider how you can contribute.
Launched in 1985, this year it has a theme of ‘Solidarity through volunteering’. With millions of people already volunteering in Australia, it is hoped the theme will inspire more people to lend a helping hand. Volunteering can be a great way to forge new connections with like-minded people who share your values and interests. It can also offer an opportunity to learn new skills or gain valuable experience in areas that may not be related to your working life.
Here are five things to think about if you’d like to give back in 2023.
1) Why volunteer?
Think about your why. What is going to feel rewarding for you? Are you hoping to meet new people in your neighbourhood? Do you want to make a difference for a particular group of people in the community: new migrants, the homeless, people with disabilities, for instance. Or is doing something to help save the planet your passion?
2) What skills can you offer?
Enthusiasm goes a long way, but most organisations will look for skills when people put up their hand to volunteer. You may be happy to offer professional skills on a pro-bono basis or part of the attraction may be the opportunity to learn new skills or practice recently gained skills. It might be a way of indulging your love of animals or the arts or expanding your understanding of the fundraising process in the not-for-profit sector. Got great people skills or previous experience managing projects? Make sure you mention those in your expression of interest.
3) How much time do you have?
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to volunteer commitments. You may be happy to volunteer for a one-off event such as a local festival. Or perhaps you know you’ll have a lighter work or study-load in the coming months and can spare regular hours but only for six months. Offering a few hours on a one-off basis to help a not-for-profit get a particular job done might be more your speed.
4) When are you available?
Some people have more flexibility during the day on weekdays when the kids are at school or because they are retired. For others, their time is their own in the evenings or on weekends. Your schedule will influence the volunteering opportunities available to you.
5) Be patient
Just because you’re willing and able doesn’t mean you can begin volunteering tomorrow. Organisations may have an interview and reference checking process for potential volunteers. They may ask you to satisfy a working with children or police check or there may be a training program or information session to attend before you can begin your volunteering journey. If the organisation is operating on a limited budget or is staffed by other volunteers, it may take some time for the wheels to turn. So be patient and know that it will be worth the wait.
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