Volunteering 101: Find Your Perfect Fit


So you're starting to think about getting involved in your community. Congrats! One of the best ways to get involved in your community is to volunteer.  The task of volunteering can be overwhelming at times and sometimes people quit before they even get started because they don’t know where to begin.  Here are the top three things to keep in mind as you begin to connect to your community and the world around you.

1. Have a Plan

As with all good intentions, having a plan is a sure-fire way to get off to a good start! Here are a few different questions to ask yourself as you look for a place to get involved:

“What am I passionate about?” 

This is the time to figure out what you care about and to start looking for missions and organizations that match your passions.  Figuring out what your passions are is a great way to figure out which organizations you want to not only give your time to, but also your charitable giving.

“What does my dream world look like?”

Do a little research and see what local, state, national, and even international groups are helping to achieve a dream of yours.  Maybe you want all dogs to have a forever home—there are a lot of different organizations that work to place dogs in permanent homes on all levels. Look at all organizations everything from your local no-kill shelter to the National Humane Society.  Determine which groups are most effectively getting the world to a place you dream of.

“What are my interests?”

Narrow your interests and skills before you go to an organization.  What do you want to do to help the organization? What skills do you have to offer? Make sure you know what you want to do to help the organization and what you have to offer.  Often, people believe they should volunteer a skill set that they do regularly and are good at, but you can also volunteer a skill that you exercising, but don’t often have time for.  This gives you an opportunity to shine, and ensure you don’t get burnt out while you are volunteering!

2. Find Your Perfect Fit

After you have narrowed your interests and determined what kind of organization you want to volunteer with, it’s time to find your perfect match! Take the time to search the internet for organizations in your area or call your local United Way chapter to get a sense of who they partner with.  If you are looking for a larger database to pull from, take a look at idealist.org and volunteermatch.org.  As you search for a fit, start small in the time you give.  Make sure to test the waters at multiple organizations and see what fits you the best!

3. Know What to Expect

Don’t forget to think of yourself when you’re volunteering! Make sure that as you test out organizations they are as interested in you as you are in them. It should be a mutually beneficial relationship. Make sure that the work you are doing is appreciated. We all know that when you're volunteering, it isn't for the glory, but it’s still important to be appreciated.

If you want more information about volunteering, check out our Facebook LIVE video here!

The Value of Volunteer Programs

photo by Getty Services, edited by author  







A quote commonly credited to John Quincy Adams (but was probably first said by Dolly Parton) is the rallying cry for servant leadership in the modern era: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

It was one of the many quotes I heard last night at the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce's Legacy Gala recognizing Stefan Anderson. Steve is a long-time supporter and listener of Indiana Public Radio, which is where I work. So I got to join with my coworkers and leaders of community to recognize Steve's 35-year commitment to making Muncie a better place to live and work. He's retired now, but was a hugely successful businessman as the president of First Merchants Bank. A Wisconsin native and Harvard grad, Muncie is his home by choice, not by birth. He's volunteered extensively in this community, and he mentioned that it was due in large part to the influence of his predecessors – men whose names are on buildings are all over the Ball State campus.

In The Essential Drucker (2001), Peter Drucker asserts that managers should not be “appraised, rewarded or promoted according to their participation in voluntary activities. Ordering or pressuring managers into such work is abuse of organizational power and illegitimate.” (page 64) I think the point Drucker makes is that forced or coerced volunteerism is inherently disingenuous. While I agree that volunteerism should not be the basis of promotion or raise, I see value in an organization making it a priority for its employees to serve their community.  So many times, an employee may not be able to make the time to volunteer unless it’s employer mandated or encouraged. Anecdotally, I’ve seen lots of evidence that once a person meets the initial commitment put forth by the employer, he will continue to volunteer because he feels it’s worthy of his time.

Should organizations punish managers for not volunteering? Definitely not. A nonprofit gets no value from a volunteer who’s there just to make sure she doesn’t lose her job. But I love the trend of organizations giving employees paid time to volunteer. A few weeks ago, NPR did a story during All Things Considered on companies encouraging workers to volunteer on the clock. As the story points out, encouraging volunteer work isn’t only good for the employee’s well-being and the company’s image, “volunteer programs can help make workers feel more engaged — and keep them from quitting, which is costly.” Volunteer programs are good for the bottom line.

These sort of volunteer programs need to be a part of organizational culture, and the burden is on the managers themselves to encourage and promote this type of behavior. I would love to see every business offering paid time for volunteering. This might be the way we see the next Stefan Anderson take his place in the community.