You’ve volunteered for the first time with an organization you believe in, care about, and want to impact. What can you expect as a new volunteer? And what is expected of you? Be aware of these three things as you get used to your new role:
- Learning Curve – You’ll have one. How long or how steep will depend on how much you know about the organization, if you’ve held a similar role in a different organization, etc. Be patient and ask questions of others with more experience. Ask for background if there’s a conversation being held that’s unfamiliar. If you need details so you can contribute, get them from the staff team if you want to prepare in advance of the meeting. Use the staff team as the resource they are and know that they have been asked this question before – many times. Often, they are the consistent ‘thread’ for many organizations and can advise on historical decisions, leadership perspectives and lingo common to your industry.
- Direction – This may come from a volunteer or staff leader, in writing, or at your first meeting. This will outline expectations of deliverables from your participation. It may include time, energy, and/or financial resources. You may already know this information as part of the recruitment process. If not, they should be shared during your orientation in your new role. Succeeding as a volunteer requires you to understand both your role in addition to the outcomes expected by the organization and its leaders.
- Connections – As one of the main reasons for volunteering, you will make connections – to people and to the organization. Actively participating in an organization brings you in contact with other members, industry leaders and the staff team. Building your personal and professional network through volunteerism is one of the perks. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn from peers and get input from new perspectives. It also gives you deeper insight into the mission of the organization and its future direction.
Non-profit organizations rely on volunteers as key resources to continue momentum of their programs and services. Always needed and always welcome, new volunteers bring fresh ideas and perspectives to “standard” operations. Good luck as you begin your new role!