STARTING TO VOLUNTEER
Important considerations when starting to volunteer
What is Volunteering? Volunteering is described as an unpaid activity where someone gives their time to help a not-for-profit organisation or an individual who they are not related to. One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together.
Volunteering can be a daunting experience, especially for those that are new to the country and the workplace, but volunteering can also be a rewarding experience in so many ways.
Volunteering can also help with integration into a new country, offering access to social networks, skills and experience whilst developing language skills.
This module will provide information on important considerations when starting volunteering, avoiding common barriers, removing myths around volunteering and will cover rules around work ethics in general.
The aim of this module is to reinforce good practices by providing guidance and useful references.
- To address issues and barriers around volunteering.
- Challenge myths around volunteering.
- To enable successful preparation before volunteering to get the best out of the experience.
Duration & Requirements
Approximate reading time for the module, without taking into account suggested resources and further reading, is about 3 hours.
The learners don’t need to already have particular knowledge or skills. The learners will need a computer with an internet connection to look at suggested resources.
It is advisable that the learners consult the reference material and thus deepen the information provided.
This module has been developed to provide a framework for successfully volunteering Despite the vast amount of work that has taken place to encourage volunteering, there are still some perceived barriers to be broken down in order to engage more people/women in volunteering. Many third country nationals in Europe are overqualified or over-skilled for their jobs and women tend to have particularly low employment rates. Even though they are more educated than migrant men, they experience de-skilling more than other women and migrant men (EIGE Report, 2016). Their skills and qualifications are not completely utilised.
"I don’t have enough time..."
The most common reason why people and especially women don’t engage in volunteering boils down to lack of free time, which is cited by women and those aged 35-54.
What’s the point of volunteering...? You want me to work for free…?"
Some people still don’t see the value in engaging in volunteering, believing that they would have nothing in common with other volunteers or just not seeing what the benefit would be for them. Volunteering is seen as giving ‘free time’ for no recompense
"They aren’t any volunteering opportunities out there..."
There are people who have an interest in volunteering but report that they either received no reply from their chosen organisation or the organisation couldn’t find a suitable position for them.
“Can volunteering really help me get a job?”
Volunteering can really help you get a job – but not always as quickly as you’d like. To get the most out of volunteering it helps to have realistic expectations. If you take on a volunteer role, and are committed, you will get huge benefit.
So, what are the most important considerations when starting to volunteer. The most important thing is that you are enthusiastic, hard-working, and ready to help people and the community. Lack of language skills should not be a barrier as many organisations require interpreters / translators to support new migrant communities. Having a good grasp of home languages is seen as ‘gold dust’. Many organisations will bite your hand off to have individuals join their teams.
Here are some simple steps you can consider when considering volunteering in your community:
- Complete required training
Once you have secured a volunteer position, complete any training required. Most training will be minimal, but some organisations require you to hold a certification or complete a training course before you can begin volunteering.
- Begin with a limited commitment
When you first start, plan your schedule only few months into the future. This will allow you to see if you enjoy the position and organisation before you make a full commitment. Once you know you want to continue volunteering in this capacity, consider giving more of your time to the organisation.
As the saying goes, ‘under promise, over deliver’.
- Be a professional
Treat your volunteer commitment just as you would a paying job. Show up on time, deliver on your commitments last minute and be professional while performing volunteer work. Non-profit organisations rely on volunteers for many of their duties, so being reliable and professional makes a positive impact on the agency
- Regularly assess your volunteer experiences
Assess every few months if you are still enjoying the volunteer position. If not, you may want to consider searching for another volunteer opportunity in your area. You could also speak to the volunteer coordinator to see if there are other roles available within the same organisation.
5 Hardest Things about Volunteering
1. Being out of your comfort zone
As human being, we are creatures of habit, so getting out of our comfort zone and doing something completely new and unknown can be a challenge for many of us. This makes us feel vulnerable and exposed, which can cause anxiety and a wave of uncertainty.
However, as a positive the growth and experience you will gain is worth giving volunteering a chance. Fear is our worst enemy, it holds us back from so many wonderful opportunities.
2. Feeling overworked and exhausted
Remember volunteering will add additional workload to your existing daily life, so be prepared.
Be careful not to over work yourself or drain yourself, because then you will be of no use to anyone.
3. Feeling emotionally involved and invested
Most people get emotionally attached to the volunteering role as you will be selecting the role because you are passionate about the role. Unfortunately you don’t want to become so involved that it causes clashes in decision making.
4. Limited communication with staff
There are never enough hours in a day! Most staff will be busy with their daily tasks and unless a volunteer is assigned a specific person, there will be limited contact with staff.
Never be afraid to ask questions. Don’t spend time just worrying about your role. The only way the organisation will get the best out of you will be if you are happy with what you are doing, so they will ultimately appreciate you asking questions.
5. Lack of language skills
Lack of language skills should not be a barrier to volunteering, as many organisations require interpreters / translators to support new migrant communities. Having a good grasp of home languages is seen as ‘gold dust’. Many organisations will bite your hand off to have individuals join their teams
Barrier for disadvantage / disabled women
Volunteering can be a barrier to women in general but this increases for migrant women as stated above but for those with disabilities, barrier are further increased.
Disability Discrimination Act 1995 made it unlawful to discriminate against disabled persons in connection with employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services or the disposal or management of premises; to make provision about the employment of disabled persons; and to establish a National Disability Council.
This combined with The Equality Act 2010 says that you must not be discriminated against because you have a disability someone thinks you have a disability.
Both of these acts ensure that disabled person has the right to expect safe and secure place of work / volunteering.
So, what are the most important considerations when starting to volunteer. The most important thing is that you are enthusiastic, hard-working, and ready to help people and the community.
In this chapter, we looked at simple tips on starting a volunteering position. We also discussed some common perceptions about volunteering and general benefits of volunteering.
By the end of this module you will be able to:
- Plan a volunteering opportunity
- Understand the importance and benefits of volunteering
- Understand common myths and barriers to volunteering
- Colin Rochester, Angela Ellis Payne & Steven Howlett (2010), Volunteering in the 21st century, Palgrave MacMillan, United Kingdom
- Paul Dekker & Loek Halman (2003), The Values of Volunteering: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, Plenum Publishers, New York
- Susanne Strauß (2008), Volunteering and social inclusion, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Germany