Entering into the world of volunteering might be something you really want to do, but from the outside it can seem a little intimidating or simply overwhelming because of the amount of different options that are available.
If you want to overcome your hang-ups and get started as a volunteer, the following few tips will hopefully give you the guidance and motivation you need.
Play to your Strengths
You are likely to have a better experience as a volunteer, as well as making a bigger impact with your actions, if the role you choose to fulfil falls within an existing skill set you possess.
While it is obviously possible to develop fresh skills as a volunteer, you might have to deal with a steep learning curve in the process. For first timers, volunteering for work that you are already comfortable with or have the ability to execute effectively makes more sense.
If you are a good cook, volunteer your skills to support a bake sale. If you are a strong reader, donate your time to a local care home. If you have experience with children, learn how to sponsor a child and make a difference to their life. It’s important that you’re able to commit for the long-term, so choose a path that is best suited to your own personality and background.
Set an Achievable Schedule
New volunteers have a tendency to get over excited and promise to spend more time working for a good cause than they can viably afford over a long period.
Instead it is better to be realistic about how much of your spare time you can actually give to a good cause without having a negative impact on your work or social life. If you are honest about this from day one you can set an achievable schedule and avoid disappointment, frustration and guilt as a result.
Of course if you find that you have developed an appetite for volunteering and want to increase your dedication to it, that is fine; just try not to overload yourself in the early stages.
Stick With It
Throwing in the towel after your first experience as a volunteer might seem like the only choice if you simply did not enjoy yourself, found the environment unwelcoming or encountered any other obstacles as part of the process. However, as with trying any new activity, it is always better to give it a few attempts rather than quitting quickly.
Often you will find that volunteering will become more enjoyable and rewarding over time as you get to know the others involved and build a bond that brings you back with a smile on your face, rather than fear of what’s to come.
More than 20 million people volunteer in the UK, so you will be sure to meet friendly people who share similar interests to you. This alone should be enough to convince you to stick with it even if you experience initial jitters.
Depending on the charity or organisation you volunteer with, there may be a large number of other prospective participants who are equally eager to get involved. Because of this you should not take the application process for granted and simply assume that you will be accepted; in many cases there will be lots more people hoping to get involved than there are places available for them to fill.
It is no surprise that big events like the London Marathon involve so much rigmarole in selecting participants, and the same is true of volunteer schemes. Apply early and put as much effort into doing so as you can to ensure that you stand out and are likely to secure your desired role.
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