What makes a great volunteer? Not me. Well, certainly not last week anyway!
I had a really important meeting to attend, one that would help to resolve some significant issues a particular charity is facing. I knew that I needed to drop the children at school first and then head into town. So far, so good.
When I arrived at school, however, I realized that a workshop for parents that I was interested in attending was taking place that morning — and not the next day as I had thought. So I calculated my time (badly) and figured I could go to the workshop AND make the meeting on time — with perhaps a few seconds to spare!
Of course it didn’t work out that way, so with half an hour to go before the meeting in town I was still an hour and a half away, judging by the traffic. I called ahead to make my excuses for being late but the meeting couldn’t be delayed. My colleague had another appointment to go to, so we had to cancel and reschedule for two weeks later!
The charity was counting on me to follow through and I didn’t. I was not the great volunteer that I wanted to be.
So, my question remains, what makes a volunteer great?
In my opinion, you are a valuable volunteer when you can demonstrate the following things:
Dependability: If you promise to do something, do it! Chances are that the charity will not be able to call on anyone else to do the work that you have committed to.
Reliability: Be on time and show up when you say you will. It is better to promise an hour of your time and stick to it, than offer three hours and not follow through. At least then the organization can plan to involve more people or increase the time needed to complete the job on hand.
Commitment: To be able to make a difference I think that you need to be committed to the cause. If you truly believe in the work that the charity is doing then your dependability and reliability are given, and you will do whatever you can within your means to ensure the success of the organization.
Flexibility: in both thought and deed. You might find yourself volunteering to design flyers for a bake sale or a community event. You might end up designing it as well as arranging the printing and the distribution! If it fits in with your time and you are able and can commit to doing it, then why not?
What I am saying here is, why not treat your volunteering role like you would treat a paid job? The four traits that I think make a great volunteer are all expected without question in paid work — by both the employer and the employee.
So why not for volunteering too, no matter how big or small the task? And I am absolutely sure that if you can deliver in this way, you will be appreciated by the organization as a great volunteer — someone who is committed, reliable, and dependable yet flexible enough to help out with the needs of the charity. What a great reputation to have!
I certainly didn’t follow my own advice last week and I expect my reputation has suffered a little.
If you are volunteering, or thinking about it, what traits do you believe a volunteer should have? I’d love to hear your advice because I’m still learning too.