As you move through your professional life, it is quite likely you’ll be asked to serve in a volunteer position with an association. Recent numbers show the rate of volunteerism has remained steady as 62.8 million Americans volunteered 7.9 billion hours last year.
Serving in a volunteer role is not a commitment to be made lightly though. A successful term of service yields a great number of professional and personal benefits but an unfulfilled obligation leads to frustration all around.
When approached with a volunteer opportunity consider asking yourself the following questions:
1. How well do I know this organization?
You may already be able to recite the mission and vision of this organization by heart and have a true passion for their work. But if you don’t, take time to do a little research to understand how this volunteer opportunity fits into their strategic objectives. What part will you be playing in helping them accomplish their work?
2. What exactly am I being asked to do?
Start by asking the basic questions about the role such as the objective of the committee, length of service, if the meeting commitments involve travel or specific blocks of time, and an estimation of the time that needs to be devoted outside of meetings. Just like making any other decision, you’ll need all the facts. If the person doing the asking doesn’t seem to have all of the information, or you suspect the picture being painted isn’t an accurate representation, ask for the name of someone who has served in that role and reach out to him or her.
3. How much time can I commit?
An hour conference call once a month may not seem like a big commitment, but look closely at your schedule. Can you truly devote the time needed to fulfill the responsibilities of this opportunity, which might include email communication outside of meetings and the review of committee materials? Remember that the length of service for this position might commit you for the next year or more, so consider what career or life events are on your horizon.
4. What about this opportunity appeals to me?
Before jumping to a yes, do a little self-reflection and be honest. If the opportunity appeals to you, then clarify why. Is this an opportunity for me to give back to the association? Is this an opportunity to build skills or expand your network? Is this an area where I have a specific skill or ability? Clarifying your own motivation will lead you a more definitive answer about the opportunity.
5. Is this the best use of my time? Is there a better fit with this association?
As passionate as you might be about serving your association, is this opportunity the best fit? If a different opportunity fits your skills and interests, make your interests known. The goal is a successful, meaningful volunteer experience and that might mean saying no to this position in favor of a different role.
A successful volunteer commitment can have long-lasting impact on an association and its mission. When asked if you are willing to serve, take a few thoughtful moments to consider all aspects of the opportunity before giving your answer.