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What to expect before you volunteer

Once you've found a volunteer opportunity that interests you, there are some steps involved in volunteering that may include some or all of the following:

1.  Apply. Many applications are completed online, but others are still done the old fashioned way – on actual paper! You may find some smaller organizations that don't require you to apply – but they should at least collect your basic personal information. You may also be asked to submit a resume, depending on the type of position for which you are applying.

2.  Connect with the organization. There are many different names and variations for the person you will speak with. They basically all boil down to the person who is in charge of working with the volunteers in the organization. The most common titles are:

  • Volunteer Coordinator (or Coordinator of Volunteer Services)

  • Volunteer Manager (or Manager of Volunteer Resources)

  • Community Resource Coordinator (or Manager)

  • Supervisor of Volunteers (or Administrator of Volunteer Resources)

3.  Go for an interview.  Again, depending on the position, you may have to schedule an interview to ensure that you are a good fit for the organization and the organization is a good fit for you. You can ask questions and learn more about what’s expected of you. If you are volunteering for a one-time event, you may not need to do this – but for a longer-term commitment or one with a higher level of leadership or responsibility, you will probably be required to meet with the volunteer coordinator or project leader. This is a good opportunity to confirm exactly what you are agreeing to!

4.  Provide references. If you’ve gone for an interview, you will probably have to provide references. Each non-profit is different, but they usually like to have someone who has supervised you before, or witnessed your work in a similar role or situation to the role in which you’ve applied. It’s often all right to provide one friend or maybe even a family member. Check with the organization if you are uncertain.

5.  Complete paperwork. This could include:

  • Confidentiality Agreement (signing this document means that you agree not to share any private or confidential information about the organization, its clients, staff or other volunteers)

  • Volunteer Services Agreement (basically, a contract stating that you plan to honour your commitment to the volunteer position as it was outlined when offered)

  • Police Information Check (if applicable)

  • Child Intervention Record Check (if you are working with minors)

  • Other documents such as a photo or media release form (if they want to take your photo or video events for marketing or promotional purposes)

  • Waivers about Covid-19 (for example, understanding your risk of exposure, or vaccination status)

6.  Attend an orientation session. There may be a large and formal

orientation session (and note, some organizations, especially those that recruit large numbers of volunteers, will hold this session before you even apply - more as an information session. Then after you are accepted as a volunteer, you may still have to attend an orientation session). It’s common for events or festivals to hold one or two orientation sessions before the event. Be sure to include this time in your commitment as it is very important that all volunteers get briefed before the event and have an opportunity to ask questions. 

7.  Take part in training. You may have to attend one or more training sessions before you begin volunteering. Some of these sessions are very intense and can be up to 75 hours (think of a crisis line or victim services volunteer) while other training may be more of a “come an hour early for your first shift”, or even on-the-job training.

 

Now, you are ready to volunteer!  As you can see, this is very similar to paid positions you may have had. It may seem like a lot to go through “just to help out” but it is in the best interests of the non-profit organization, the people it serves, its staff and other volunteers, and for YOU, to be thorough in placing volunteers.  When there are processes in place to ensure success – everybody wins.

"great things are brought about, and great burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands anxiously engaged in a good cause."

~M.Russell Ballard