I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about volunteerism for two reasons; one, I’ve been evaluating how much of my time I can afford to give away and if my current volunteer commitments continue to meet my goals, and, two, because volunteers are the backbone of organizations such as the DC Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMADC). Even with the number of marketers currently seeking work and career training/change and the number of students recently graduated, it can be difficult to recruit and engage committed volunteers.
I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about volunteerism for two reasons; one, I’ve been evaluating how much of my time I can afford to give away and if my current volunteer commitments continue to meet my goals, and, two, because volunteers are the backbone of organizations such as the DC Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMADC). Even with the number of marketers currently seeking work and career training/change and the number of students recently graduated, it can be difficult to recruit and engage committed volunteers. We are all so busy with work (seeking work), family, commutes and other activities consuming our calendars, how do we find the (extra) time to volunteer and do we make the time? We have good intentions but there are only so many hours in our day.
I approach volunteering like many other things in life. I try to do a little each day or each week and watch the progress add up. Admittedly, I’m a chronic volunteer, often over-extending myself because I can’t say no as I want to be part of the solution or a bigger and better effort. However, as time moves on, I’m learning to evaluate the personal cost-benefit of my volunteer activities, much like my work balance sheet within my budget. I recently ended terms on two boards so I could focus on my passion, which is AMADC and one other organization. Here are some things to consider when a volunteer opportunity presents itself (rate each on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best):
1. Is this opportunity going to help me grow professionally or personally? How and when?
2. Am I going to learn a new skill or gain knowledge in a new area?
3. Will I meet the people I want to work with and who can help me in the future?
4. Will I be energized by the experience?
5. Will I make a difference to someone or something?
6. Could my time be better spent on other things?
7. Can I commit the time necessary and complete the job required?
8. Is this something I want to tell people about and add to my resume?
9. Am I the right fit at the right time for this opportunity?
10. Will I have fun?
If you didn’t score at least an 80, you should reconsider your involvement at this time (both the organization and the position). As a person who had been a volunteer and who has managed volunteers, I suggest the following to ensure a great volunteer experience:
1. If you can’t make a deadline or honor a commitment, let someone know immediately. We’ve all been there and things will come up. Have a back up plan in place.
2. When you go on vacation or work travel, recognize you probably won’t be able to resume your volunteer activities until you return and settle back in, and that’s okay. None of us are superhuman.
3. Ask about the expectations of the role and if a position description doesn’t exist, help create one. There’s nothing worse then when you can’t agree on what’s involved. Be part of the solution.
4. Find a mentor in the organization who can help show you the ropes. This person could be a great resource for the future as well.
5. Recruit others to help you and teach them more than your mentor teaches with you. These individuals can back you up when your schedule is busy and it’s a great way to create a succession plan.
It’s very easy to over commit in today’s world. It’s okay to say no or to set realistic expectations but communication is key. The nature of volunteering doesn’t lend itself to systems, processes and training so recognize that you and the organization may be frustrated but you can help make the experience better for future volunteers. Since volunteers come and go, it’s difficult to manage these individuals contributions but it can also be the most rewarding experience, personally and professionally, when you’re volunteering with the right people at the right place at the right time.
For more information about volunteer opportunities with AMADC, visithttps://www.amadc.org/membership/local-benefits. And certainly talk with any AMADC volunteers or email me at President@amadc.org to learn more.