Five Steps to Ensure that You Choose the Right Volunteer Project

Abstract: Have you ever volunteered for a project and later wished you had just opted to stay home? Perhaps an organization, which you run, made this mistake? If so, here are five things you can do to make sure you choose the right volunteer project.

Courtesy of Microsoft Office
Many of us routinely volunteer to help churches, social organizations, and other charitable organizations sponsor everything from school bake sales to city-wide events. In fact, Americans donated a total of 7.9 billion hours to volunteer projects in 2012. At the same time, most of us lead busy lives. We want to make sure that we donate our time to the most worthwhile projects (for us).

Here are five tips that you can use to help you and your sponsor organizations get the most out of your volunteer hours.

Make Sure that You Are Qualified

In some cases, the organizations in charge of an event can only use volunteers who are a certain age or who have specific qualifications. This is especially true in disaster clean-up and crisis management situations, which require doctors, nurses, and other volunteers with specific medical backgrounds. In another example, you would not want a 16-year old to serve beer at an Oktoberfest event.

You will save yourself and the sponsors some time if you do a quick check beforehand to make sure that you meet the prerequisites to be a volunteer.

Make Sure Your Views Align with Both the Organization's and the Sponsor's Ideals

It might sound like common sense, but it is worth repeating. You should always make sure that your views align with those of the organization, the event, and the key sponsors. In the past, I have seen people volunteer for an event but later regret their decisions, when they reviewed the sponsor list. That is because they identified a hated sponsor (eg. a company with different values) only after the particular event was over.

Thoroughly Review the Contract

Sometimes you might volunteer for an event in return for the sponsors making a payment to a specific charity, social organization, school, or church. You should always carefully review the contract before you agree to this type of volunteer relationship. When I was in college, I was involved in a situation where the sponsor and some of the volunteers disagreed after the fact about how much money should go to a certain social organization. Perhaps both sides could have avoided this impasse if they had spent more time reviewing the contract they signed and making necessary amendments to it.

Check the Weather Forecast before Leaving Home

If you are volunteering for an outdoor event, you should always check the weather forecast before you leave home. You should then prepare appropriately for whatever weather you expect to see at the event. This one might seem like a no-brainer; however, I, and many other people I know, have been guilty of failing to observe it. As a result, we have needlessly suffered from the cold, the rain, and the painful effects of sunburn, among other things. You can avoid having to deal with these issues if you prepare ahead of time.

Ensure You Can Arrive on Time

I have helped to organize several charitable events in my lifetime, and I cannot stress this one enough. Volunteers need to arrive to their events on time. Sometimes, event sponsors can work around late volunteers; however, in other instances, the event organizers will be left short-handed, which is never fun for anyone. So, if you do choose to volunteer for an event, you should do your best to arrive at the scheduled time.

-- Anthony Hopper

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