Whether you happily accepted your volunteer position, begrudgingly accepted it or even worse…were coerced or guilted into it (let’s be honest…this happens!), here are some tips on how to rock it.
I’ve logged a LOT of volunteer hours over the past few years. A big part of why I work so hard as a blogger is so that I can work from home and have the flexibility to volunteer at the school my kids attend (and for their extracurricular activities). I am one of “those” people that say yes to most things and only slightly regret it later (mostly though, I love it all).
Throughout the years, I’ve held many volunteer positions and I think I’ve finally nailed my “comfort zone” of where my strength lies when it comes to offering up my time as a volunteer (although, I rarely stick to it). Sometimes though, I (and you possibly) feel out of my league and there are definitely times where what I volunteered to do does NOT feel like a good fit.
That’s okay. It’s a volunteer position. You are doing it, in many cases, because no one else wanted to/could do it. You can still rock it though.
Here’s how to rock your (overwhelming) volunteer position:
1. Find out who did it before. In MOST cases, the type of people that volunteer are the type of people that are helpful and want to see an organization succeed. This means that whoever did your job previously is likely a fabulous resource! They might have washed their hands of your position for whatever reason, but most of the time, they are still willing to mentor within reason. Many organizations require their volunteers to keep a record book or log of their time as volunteer xyz. This will be your most valuable resource! If your position is brand new or you can’t reach anyone that has previously filled it…the best thing you can do is set the NEXT person up for success. Keep a log book and document your successes, failures, calendar, etc.
2. Recruit others and delegate if possible. The thing is, most people want to HELP. They just don’t want to run the show. You might get 1 person to sign up as room mom, but everyone is willing to do SOMETHING to make the school year a success. Look closely at your plan of work or job description and find others that can help you fulfill those requirements. Some might be able to donate 30 minutes a week. Some might be able to donate $10. Some might only be able to help you recruit others. Everyone is a resource!
3. Be organized. This one is so tough for me. I’m not an organized person by nature. I have ADHD, I’m scatterbrained and my brain fog is London legendary. However, a good volunteer is an organized volunteer. Purchase a binder or a folder for all important paperwork. Set up a (free!) folder on Google Drive for all digital media/documents/forms. Invest in a good planner or utilize the many many online organizing websites. Shutterfly offers special team sites where your team can share pictures, a calendar and important documents. Facebook offers free groups. Google Calendar allows you to share a calendar with as many people as you want.
4. Ask Questions. Especially if this is your first time. I’m not going to lie, the first year in a new position, you feel a bit like you are sinking steadily. Especially if these are completely uncharted waters for you. Hopefully, you won’t have a big volunteer position until you’ve gotten the lay of the land. However, sometimes you sign your kid up for swim team for the first year and all of a sudden you are the Vice President of the executive board (thankfully THIS has not happened to me. I’m just the secretary, LOL). Let me be very very clear about something…this is a VOLUNTEER position. Everyone is thankful you are doing it. If anyone is annoyed that you have a million questions, then they can find someone else for the job. Oh wait….nobody else wants the job? Exactly.
5. Have a great attitude but also don’t assume anything ever. I mean, this is what it all really comes down to right? There was one instance where I thought I had all of my ducks in a row and then the event was over and everyone left. With an entire event to clean up…all by myself, I’m not too proud to say I started to cry. It was my first year doing this big position and I really didn’t know how to delegate properly.
All of my “helpers” were veterans who I felt a.) should know that cleaning up was our responsibility, so I shouldn’t have to tell them and b.) like I didn’t have the authority to tell them because they were veterans. This attitude (of fear mainly) left me with an entire event to clean up by myself. (thankfully some other moms saw the situation and stepped in to help – see? Most people DO want to help!) Don’t do this. Have a great attitude, but tell people what you need from them. Be assertive. YOU are the person who stepped up. Take pride in that and don’t be ashamed to say what you need and when you need it. If they scoff, they can do it next year.
Finally (and this should probably be #6), please please don’t quit. If someone else is willing to take the job from you, that’s one thing. However, I’ve seen too many volunteers just completely drop the ball and walk away when the going gets tough. Then, for the rest of their time in that organization, they feel awkward and embarrassed. There’s no need for this. You just do the best you can. I guarantee, if you embrace the 5 tips above, nobody could ever say that you didn’t try your hardest.
A funny little story regarding one of my early volunteer positions. I was collecting money for a directory that our school puts out yearly. It is advertiser sponsored so I had some BIG checks from local businesses. I had them in a container and I kept that container up high 99% of the time. One day I took it down to add another check, and I guess I had forgotten it was there. A few hours later, I went to look for it…and it was GONE. I flipped out! Looooong story short, my daughter had decided to put her barbies in it and then put the box under my bathroom sink so the barbies could “sleep”. In the time that box was missing though (a couple of hours), I was seriously telling my husband that if we really lost all of those checks, I was going to have to have the kids change elementary schools because losing thousands of dollars worth of checks was simply too mortifying to admit.
Phew! Thank goodness we found those checks!
What tips do you have for volunteers that find themselves in overwhelming positions?