Volunteering isn't just helping others, it is really an exchange. Volunteers often say they get back so much more than they give. (In fact, if you don't feel that way about your volunteering, you are likely "doin' it wrong"— or doing it for the wrong reasons.)
Reasons to volunteer:
to live a more balanced life;
to help out;
to learn new skills or use existing skills;
to explore an area of personal or professional interest;
to learn more about a particular subject;
to gain a greater sense of self-esteem;
to meet people;
to do your civic duty; give back to the community;
to be part of a team;
to contribute to a cause that has affected you personally;
to feel needed;
to keep busy;
to have fun!
Reasons *not* to volunteer:
to be an authority figurine;
to become well known;
to revel in your superiority;
to control a process or person;
to gain special advantages for yourself;
to further an antisocial agenda!
Four Rights of Volunteers
The right to feel valued as a co-worker. Wherever in this world you go, whatever your volunteer task, you have the right to feel that your time and contribution are valued, and that you are not just free help, that you have a part in planning, that your honest opinions are respected and that appreciation will be expressed by other team members.
The right to relevance. You have the right to be matched with meaningful assignments that further your personal goals, or expand your abilities, knowledge, and experience. The right to receive orientation, training, a job description, guidance, feedback and the resources necessary to carry out your commitments well.
The right to re-negotiate your volunteer role. Find yourself in a volunteer position that just isn’t working for you? You have the right to talk to the team to discuss ways you might be able to shift your role or take on another project or position. And if you still can’t find a good fit…
The right to leave. You have the right to leave without being made to feel bad about it. This isn’t a decision that should be made hastily but, if after talking to and working with the team you still feel unhappy, unappreciated, or unsatisfied with your volunteer experience, you do have the right to go volunteer somewhere else that will be more fun for you.
Four Responsibilities of Volunteers:
The responsibility to communicate your needs. Feel like your work isn’t meaningful? Not what you thought you’d signed up for? Or just bored and ready for something else? Talk to the team, providing specifics about your dissatisfaction and at least a few suggestions of ways to make it better. If you don’t let them know that you’re not getting from the experience what you’d hoped, they can’t work with you to improve the situation.
The responsibility to value the team and the community. While part of the team, respect its members and the diversity of their opinions, learn and embrace the values of the whole community, safeguard confidential information, protect privacy, act fairly and impartially, refrain from using your authority or position as a lever against others and be open to change!
The responsibility to follow through on your obligations. Do what you say you’ll do, whether it’s honoring the volunteer role and schedule you’ve agreed to, providing ample notice if you’re unable to perform your tasks or responsibilities, or serving as a good representative of the team in the community.
The responsibility to honor the team’s investment in you. Always remember that while you may be donating your time, you are not a free resource to the team; rather, they too have invested invaluable time—and probably also knowledge, tools, and other resources—in having you be part of the group. Should you feel you no longer want to volunteer here, be sure to keep this commitment in mind before deciding to leave, and before taking your work with you to the detriment of the larger community.
Adapted from texts by the The Volunteer Center of San Francisco, The US Army Volunteer Corps, and Idealist.org, who have all walked this way before us.