Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to volunteer with a number of organisations – from NGOs working on social causes to business networking groups. I have come across many good volunteers, some bad volunteers and very few excellent volunteers. Here is how the excellent ones do things (obviously, I fall in this category).
1. Take on a project only when you have the time.
A lot of volunteers start out enthusiastically and take responsibility for a project only to realize later on that they don’t have the time to work on it. As volunteer work is unpaid, accountability is usually lacking and people don’t feel guilty about not doing the work properly, not finishing it on time or handing over charge to someone else at the last minute.
2. Communicate with all the team members.
Volunteer work usually means there is a lot of flexibility in terms of when and where you work. What is sacrosanct however is that there should constant communication between all the members so that everyone is on the same page. Nothing hurts a project more than miscommunication. In this age of WhatsApp and Facebook messenger, there really is no excuse.
3. Be involved throughout the process.
When a project begins, a certain number of people are marked on the emails. They are all supposed to give their inputs and feedback. What happens is that eventually only a few committed ones respond and give timely feedback. The project moves forward, is about to reach its goal when suddenly the dormant members will wake up and start giving their two cents on the topic. You have to listen to them as they are part of the team and there is no boss as everyone is a volunteer. Work has to be redone, deadlines are not met and a smoothly running machine sputters to a stop. This also demotivates the team members who had been working on the project throughout this time.
4. Do not give excuses.
If you can’t or won’t do something, be upfront and say it. Don’t sit on things till the last minute and then give a 100 excuses to prove that it wasn’t your fault.
5. Treat the work like you would a job.
Being a volunteer doesn’t mean you can slack off. You still have to work as efficiently and effectively as you would in a regular job, in fact more, as places that usually need volunteers are resource poor. You have to be creative, accountable, work as a team and meet deadlines. If you can’t do this, please don’t volunteer.