Last week I met a friend for tea. She dashed in straight from her regular Tuesday morning volunteering at her sons school. Plus she volunteers there Thursday mornings, Friday afternoons in the library, and as many school trips and events as she can. Whew! That’s a part time job.
Volunteering was a large part of our tea conversation. Why does she do it? It’s rewarding. She feels that she is giving back and truly matters to those she helps. She realizes she may be encouraging an academically challenged student to stay in school. For other volunteers, like those in senior homes, it may bring happiness and socialization. So many reasons. All rewarding – for volunteer and recipient.
From years of volunteering my friend had a definite list of dos and don’ts and suggestions for volunteers and for the person or organization one is volunteering for:
- treat your volunteering like a job; dress the part, call or email if sick, arrive on time
- respect the people and organization; no foul language or talking about others
- offer suggestions but understand and respect that the full-time employees may have reasons for doing things differently
- know the boundaries when complaining or offering suggestions
- ask how the volunteer wishes to be addressed – Mr., Mrs., Ms. in a school setting would be appropriate whereas first names may be more suitable with seniors
- give a tour of the facilities so the volunteer knows where to find what they need – supplies, washrooms, spot for personal belongings
- ensure the volunteer feels part of the team; many organizations couldn’t survive without unpaid assistance
- communicate their appreciation to volunteers – verbally, a note, appreciation lunch or token gift
My friend is not unique. Canadians have always had the reputation of being volunteers. Statistics show however that in the last few years the number of Canadians volunteering has declined. Time is cited as the major reason for this trend.
Why do we volunteer? Do you volunteer? Is it important to you? Should organizations rely on unpaid help? Could our society function without volunteers?
Hoping you will volunteer your thoughts.