Questions to ask

Most organizations will have a website or post information on a social media page. These are great places to glean initial information regarding programs and activities, organizational structure and staff size, along with any community partners.

Often, an organization will have a staff person responsible for engaging and recruiting volunteers. Request to speak to the volunteer manager or recruiter to inquire about the need for volunteers and what roles are currently available and the responsibility these positions will entail.

Example questions to ask:

Does this position require training? A background check? Transportation?

  • Volunteer opportunities may require a training to brief volunteers on expectations and how to best serve the organization's needs and students. Background checks are common, especially if you want to work with children. Additionally, some volunteer opportunities may require you to drive long distances or deliver goods.

When would the opportunity start, if my application is accepted?

  • Background checks can take a few weeks, and some organizations work with the school schedule and may be closed during holiday seasons. Manage your timeline for participation accordingly.

Whom would I be working with and/or reporting to?

  • There are many ways to get involved. As a volunteer, you could be working directly with students or individuals in need; you may be asked to offer pro bono or professional services (i.e. fundraising, DIY projects, landscaping, cleaning); you could support an organization via computer or phone (i.e. translating materials, staffing a hotline, writing, website design, etc.); or you could volunteer to join an organization's board (all nonprofits are governed by a board).

What level of support will be available to me should I need help fulfilling this role?

  • Many people do not realize that volunteering affords opportunities to gain hands-on career and interpersonal skills. The right volunteer experience can allow you to expand your network, hone transferable soft skills such developing and managing relationships, and explore budding passions and interests that may very well turn into your next career. Be sure to communicate your goals and dreams to the volunteer manager.

What are typical challenges faced by volunteers in this role?

  • You have the right to know what you're getting yourself into and to manage your expectations. It's important to know if this organization will be a good fit before making a commitment you may not be able to keep due to physical or emotional challenges. Consider asking if you can speak with former volunteers to gain insight on this prospective volunteer opportunity.

In short, make sure you know what will be expected of you. Volunteering can be challenging work and it can be extremely rewarding. Start small. Give yourself room to grow. And, above all else, make sure you're enjoying yourself.