10 Qualities that Non Profits look for in a Volunteer

Holding a Volunteer Manager position is not easy! We deal with motivations, agreements/disagreements and expectations of volunteers and non-profits on a daily basis. The highs and lows of each project result in many a lessons learnt and many ignored.

Volunteers must never make the mistake of believing that non profits are ready to take just about anybody and that they should be grateful if someone is willing to give their time for free. In fact it’s quite the opposite. People volunteer because they are passionate to bring a change in the cause they support and/or because they believe that they themselves can benefit from the experience in some way or other.

Likewise people running these non profits are also passionate about the cause they work for and thus want to ensure that the people who associate with them are right for the tasks.   So then what is it that Non profits look for in a volunteer? What makes a Good Volunteer?

  1. Enthusiasm- A positive attitude towards making your volunteering experience meaningful is absolutely vital! No enthusiasm can lead to volunteering becoming a burden for you!
  1. Non-judgmental Attitude – being able to take an objective view of the problems. Yes- there are issues in the non-profit setup. Yes- there may be more basic problems to be resolved. But the people who work in a non-profit are also passionate people who are striving to bring a change with the minimum resources they have. So they would appreciate it if you could raise your concerns and help them without being judgmental.
  1. Awareness – being able to recognize other people’s needs and able to look for ways to meet those needs as a result of training and your own life experiences. Non-profits always look out for volunteers who are well-read and well-aware of their skills and expertise and who keep the eye for innovations.
  1. Professionalism- Volunteers bring their best to their workplace, so it is expected that they bring their best to the volunteer effort. Mix your passion for the cause, with professionalism and the result is impressive- something a non-profit always appreciates!
  1. Compassion- having an empathy with the plight of a particular person or situation. If you have compassion for the people you want to benefit by volunteering, you’re definitely progressing towards something good.
  1. Commitment- dedicating oneself to a task. We often find volunteers who commit to a project and then go absconding. Little do they realize that non-profits are equally committing time to you, to get their projects completed. Of course you’re volunteering, but if you could only be sure before you commit, it would save them a lot of energy and time!
  1. Self Confidence– able to work both autonomously and as part of a team where necessary. A good volunteer takes the ownership for his volunteering project. He researches on the task at hand, builds strategies and works with the relevant people extensively on the task to be completed. Some volunteers go out of their way and get good deals for the non-profit or participate in their board matters as well.
  2. Good communication – able to relate to both fellow workers and those you are trying to help. A good volunteer effectively communicates and is also able to take constructive criticism on board to improve his own skills and ability to help others.
  3. Results Driven- able to achieve measurable results from a task. Often we come across volunteers who are unsatisfied with their work only because they did not place an outcome for their project. Nobody told you about outcomes? Be upfront and ask your non profit to help place outcomes for you. Everybody wants to generate a major positive impact!
  4. Constant Ambassadors- being able to represent a cause or a non profit. True volunteers don’t switch off! They constantly feel the need of spreading the word about the cause they support. They ask their friends to join the non profit or simply request people to follow the non profit on social media channels.spread

So dearest volunteers……

Forgive the resistance, Forget the delays,

Forget how somebody did not appreciate you in many ways,

Remember the cause, Remember your passion

Remember how you will make a difference with conviction!

It’s not a cake walk !!

Meet our very own Deepam Yogi, Ex Head of Marketing iVolunteer who currently Heads Operation at Social Access Communications, A marketing and communications Professional her strength lies in bringing people (things) together to provide unique, strategic and structured solutions to situations at hand. Committed to social change and an active volunteer herself, she believes that each one of us can impact social change if we have the intent to start with ourselves. She is passionate about social media and thinks it’s one of the biggest platforms to drive change today. If you don’t find her at her desk, she would probably be outdoors climbing a mountain or capturing the world around her through the tiny of her camera. .. or take a GYAN workshop , Why  ? let’s here it from her DeepamYogi

What does volunteering mean to you?

I volunteer Kos its my human responsibility. I’m fortunate to have received help throughout my life to do simple & small things and I’m not ashamed to accept that. I’d be ungrateful if I keep moving forward and not look around to extend help to those around me. For me volunteering is equal to helping another. And that does not mean helping only those who we refer to as underprivileged, everyone needs help. Sounds preachy right, but if you sit down to think, we are all volunteering all the time, we just need to be aware and extend help to those who really seek it.

How did you get introduced to GYAN, what motivated you to volunteer for it?

I was an employee of iVolunteer and was aware of the concept…my biggest observation of the social sector is the fact that it is full of passionate people working almost desperately to bring about a change. In doing so they would go upto any extend to reach out to as many people as they can. They are open to learning, open to collaboration, open to new concepts, new mediums. The modestly of the development sector to acquire knowledge for the common good of people motivated me to share my limited knowledge with them.

How would you describe your experience of taking a GYAN session?

GYAN is an interesting concept for exchange of skills. It reminds me of my school days where we exchanged notes with classmates simply kos she/he was more skilled in a particular subject than I was. The training session was insightful for me as I was able to hear the social media challenge of real problems from real people, not brands and their assumed problems.

Does the fact that the training is volunteer led have any significance on the takeaway / impact of the session?

I feel the exchange is far more constructive than any form of paid coaching. The impact of the session is largely dependent on the motivation of the volunteer kos anyone can have the depth of knowledge but everyone does not have the motivation to teach it for free and that too to people who are out there to change the world. Having said that, I also want to point out that’s it’s not a cake walk. Just kos it’s volunteering and training NGOs, one should not take it lightly. It’s a huge responsibility kos the NGOs are very open to learning and genuinely go back and attempt what you recommend.

Having engaged closely with Non profits, do you think trainings like GYAN can have a significant impact on the sector? If so, why?

Yes, training like GYAN can have a huge positive impact on the development sector. The small group concept of these sessions helps participants to address their specific queries as well as get a valuable opportunity for peer learning. NGOs not only get access to skilled volunteers but also open doors with the corporate sector. It facilitates a dialogue between the NGOs and corporate, which in my opinion has been lacking. The new company’s bill 2013 means approx 15000 cr odd rupees will be floated in the development sector from the coming financial year (2014-15). Training like GYAN is will definitely go a long way in enabling the development sector to prepare them to tap into this resource.

Do you recommend it to other professionals? If so why?

Definitely, I recommend it to all those who are willing to take a litmus test of the depth of their knowledge by addressing REAL challenges and if successful , gain the satisfaction of seeing its impact on the REAL world. In other words if I were to take a session for 8 students I will probably expect only 2 to apply it to their benefit however, if I volunteer for GYAN I am sure that my sincere efforts will bring a change in the work of at least 6 of the 8 NGO’s

Thanks Deepam.. I am In , hope I Qualify to volunteer for GYAN  !

Leveraging top talent to meet the community’s greatest needs!!

  • Saumya, a senior professional from a well established corporate volunteers during her lunch hours by talking to several vendors in getting a website done for a start up non-profit.
  • Kumar, another senior professional volunteers his time at a start up which mentors children on various career paths. He started as a mentor for five children and gradually got involved in strategically developing plans to scale up the organisation.

There has been an increasing trend of senior corporate professionals volunteering for smaller non profit set ups on a pro bono basis. By doing such pro bono projects, an individual grows and learns exponentially because of working with limited resources, acquiring new skills and enhancing one’s networking skills. Pro bono projects are an important part of skill based volunteering project that provides non-profit with skills and expertise critical to maintaining a productive organisation.

A non profit may not be able to ‘Hire’ a fortune 500 executive; however they can find a pool of 500 professional willing to volunteer pro-bono to help with various tasks. The benefit of such skill based volunteering is two fold:

Benefit to NGO:  Getting skilled volunteers to do more with less or no remuneration such as designing business strategy, creating brand strategy, outreach plan. By replacing high cost contract services with skilled volunteer services, non profits are able to stretch their grants/funds and show good custodianship of the funds available to them.

Benefit to Volunteers: Volunteering provides creative change from daily work that enhances the overall work experience. It provides volunteers organisational, leadership, communication and decision making skills.  Volunteering can help in expanding the work experience and thus ensuring better career growth.

Skill Based Volunteering (S.B.V.) is the answer to some good work experience for volunteers, lots of pro-bono benefit to community, good corporate citizenship for socially responsible business.

So let’s leverage the top talent within our network to take up some SBV projects…

The beginning of a never ending journey

Harish K. Shaw, an engineering student from Kolkata, has been associated with iVolunteer, Kolkata since last 3 years. Over these years he has taken up various roles such as content writer, brochure designer, teacher, PR and event manager. Here he talks about his volunteering journey with iVolunteer so far…

Hi, I’m Harish Shaw, an engineering student. No, let me say it again… Hi, I’m Harish Shaw, a motivated volunteer!

My decision to volunteer with iVolunteer drew from an impulse which pressed me to spend my semester break in a meaningful way and contribute my bit to the society.  Now, looking back that I’ve spent so far, I consider this period to be one of the best chapters in my life; and not a single day was tiring. My journey so far has been filled with fulfillment and cherished memories to carry through life.

In the course of my volunteering, I was exposed to the functioning of various organisations as well as senior volunteers already associated with iVolunteer. I visited an old age home along with other equally enthusiastic volunteers and I felt the work which these people have been doing was not only simple but extraordinary. Among the many initiatives, carried out by iVolunteer such as meeting the aged, thanking the police, teaching the blind, nurturing the development of underprivileged children, my favorite is the open air orientations, were we motivate new volunteers.

I had the wonderful experience of being the volunteer. I realised how volunteering has helped me improve my communication skills. I interacted with all our ex-volunteers and came to know a lot about previous activities. I felt a lot of pride and a deep sense of motivation. It has been a pleasure to work with Tanveer, Relationship Manager at iVolunteer, Kolkata, who amazes me by his strong commitment and motivation. Throughout my volunteering journey, I’ve always had a sense of working with him and never under him.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in all the activities and firmly believe that this is only the beginning of what I hope will be my never ending journey.

I would like to sign off with two of my favourite quotes:

“It’s not about what you get but what you get to give”  AND “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time, they have the heart.”     

 

-Harish K. Shaw

Link it to LinkedIn

We have been told a million times over and it has been proved beyond dispute that volunteering benefits a volunteer! Volunteering leads to meeting new people, growing your network, polishing your soft skills and even acquiring diverse skill sets.

In today’s social media savvy environment however, it is almost imperative to showcase these skills you have acquired if you want them to fuel your career growth and progression.

Thanks to LinkedIn this is easily doable. Here’s how you can showcase the skills and experiences you picked up while volunteering:

  1. Start by completing your LinkedIn profile:                                     Complete your profileSimply begin by clicking on ‘Complete your profile’ button. LinkedIn guides you through the process (with examples!)                            Linkled In Insights also has some really great ideas to help you create a great profile.
  2. Add your volunteering projects: 
    1. Once you are done with adding professional details, add your volunteering projects too. Here you have the option of adding a specific date for projects of short duration or date range for long term and ongoing voluntary assignments.add volunteering projects
    2. The ‘Description’ box is great place to add details about the Non-Profit you volunteered with, details of your volunteering project and even why you took it up.Volunteering and causes tab                      The ‘Volunteering Experience & Causes’ tab also allocates additional space to highlight: what kinds of volunteering opportunities you are looking for; details of causes you care about; organisations you support and would like to volunteer with.                                                              If you are looking to share more than a description of your project then this next tip is for you… :)                
    3. Add Volunteering assignments to the Projects section : projects tab
      1. Another great way to showcase your voluntary work is to add volunteering assignments to the ‘Projects’ sectionHere you can add a link / URL to share and show first hand what your voluntary assignment was about. This could be a link to the NGOs website or social media platforms or a link to your own blog or Facebook page.
      2. Space has also been provided to add collaborators to your project. Here you may tag a fellow volunteer or project team member if they have LinkedIn profiles or simply type in their names if they do not have profiles.

      Adding collaborators is a great way to share credit and thank fellow volunteers and project team members from the NGO!

    4. Add Skills that you picked up:                                                      If there’s one or more skills that you believe you picked up while volunteering then don’t forget to add it to the Skills and Endorsements section as well. You can reorder your skills to highlight the ones you want.
    5. Recommend a contact:                Recommend a contactVolunteering projects are a great opportunity to meet and work with new people; from people who mentored you and helped with assignments to those who are simply great to work! Just like you would recommend a business/ professional contact extend the courtesy and recommend a fellow volunteer or Non-Profit team member and show them that you value their contribution too.

Profile change notificationsLastly while revamping your profile be mindful of whether or not you want each update/ change made to your profile to be broadcast to all your contacts. As LinkedIn is a professional networking site it is important to ensure that you are aware of your account/ profile settings regardless of the choice you make.

Link your volunteering journeys to your growth as a professional and add new dimensions to your career!! 

P.S.: Stay active on LinkedIn by commenting, sharing  and joining in the conversation on topics you care about, including volunteering! Let’s stay connected!

Follow iVolunteer to share stories of fellow volunteers and receive updates on skill based volunteering opportunities :)

Conference on Volunteering and Service : Day 3

All of these days went in a flash and I was already on the final day of the conference. The last day didn’t have many sessions. I had enrolled for one in the morning before the closing plenary. It was sad that we’ll all be signing off this day. My friend dropped me at the venue. As usual, after grabbing cup of coffee I walked into the session. The session was on Fast Track Impact on fund raising and we had 3 panellists from Handson Network who did the session. It was largely interactive and the panellists shared their learnings from over a decade on how to do effective fundraising. The presented it very interestingly in asking us to list out ourselves on various levels at which we were standing with respect to volunteer engagement, communication and corporate reach out. Based on our assessments we had discussions over the table to share and learn our experiences. The session was from 8.30 to 10.00 and then we all moved to the closing plenary.

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The closing plenary was planned over a theme of creative activism where we had Emmy award winner Lynn Whitefield reciting a poem of Maya Angelou. The closing planery was also planned over sharing of inspiring stories and it was really moving to see an 8 year old boy  Myles Eckert, who lost his father in Iraq, gave a $20 bill he found to a soldier dining receive the Daily Points of Light award. Then Grammy award winner Kristian Bush performed and sang us a song to inspire us!. We then heard Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino sharing her story of activism on issues related to child trafficking!. 

Finally Neil Bush and Tracy Hoover from Points of Light came up to Thank every single member who participated in the conference over 3 days and enriched everyone’s learnings!. It was time to bid adieu to many and a tough time to part!. I had made some good friends in the last 3 days and have learned and shared so much with many. I’ll be carrying back all the learnings and try to implement them when I get back home. Really touching moments to part away. I must admit that in the last 3 days, I’ve forgot everything else and was so much engrossed into volunteering and thoughts around that!. I had forgot to call back home and inform my whereabouts, I had forgot that I had to take photos :-P for memories. I ran around and took some later. I had forgot to go around the city of Atlanta and do sight seeing!. That is the intensity we had around us. 6000 of us!

The organizers had put together a festival which celebrated volunteerism. It was much of a family gathering. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Post lunch the organizers had planned for a bus tour to certain places and unfortunately I was waitlisted by the time I had registered. So I couldn’t join any of the tour. I then finally decided to go around the Georgia Aquarium as it is one of the world’s largest Acquarium. I really enjoyed visiting the same and I must admit that it gives you a real experience of interacting with every single ocean species available in the earth. They had a dolphin show which was mind blowing!. I had only 3 hours to spend and I had to push of myself soon as I had a flight to Austin in the evening. I’ll now be travelling to different cities in the US and meet AID volunteers there and share learnings with them!

 

I’d like to thank the iVolunteer team who had been of great help throughout my travel for their guidance and timely support. Special Thanks to Vinelle who had been so patient in hearing me and sorting out things as quick as possible and helping me out throughout the process!.  

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Conference on Volunteering and Services : Day 2

After finishing Day 1 on a high, I had to hit the bed early by around 11.00 as my next day was supposed to begin early. The next morning I had decided to take MARTA the public transport service. I had to take a bus first from the bus station which was close to the apartment I was staying and reach the nearest train station and from there I had to take the train service to Georgia World Congress Center. A one way ride in the train costs $2.50 and the bus ride is free and complementary. I had to initially take a Southbound train and switch station at another station and take Westbound to reach the venue. I started at 5.40 AM from home and reached the venue by 6.30 AM. After picking a cup of coffee from Starbucks, I walked in to the room where the session was supposed to begin.

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The first person I met this morning was Ann, who was one of the key organizers of the conference and is with Points of Light, Atlanta. It was great to see her remembering me from the last night’s talk. She greeted and we exchanged few remarks about the conference and the way it had been organized. The first session at 7.00 in the morning was Pathway to Excellence : A breakfast session on Volunteer Administration. I thought that we’ll be attending the session with the breakfast at the venue and later learned that we had to bring our breakfast :-).  This session was interesting as they were discussing how volunteer coordinators should improve their core competencies and enhance their need among organizations. The session was interactive as well and the session was conducted by Council for Volunteer Administration who also do a certification program for Volunteer coordinators. It gave insights on how periodic assessments of yourselves can help you improve your efficiency. For more information on the certification program they recommended people to visit http://www.cvacert.org. 
 
My next session was also at the same hall but I had 30 minutes with me to quickly get out and grab some coffee to drink before getting to the next session. I was so excited about the next session as it was on Innovation : Impact Volunteering 3.0. However, as the session progressed, I learned that it was more focussed on volunteering at America. I thought that some parts of the learnings could be useful for me to take back and apply to Indian context but even after 20 minutes into that I couldn’t draw anything parallel. I then moved out and found another interesting session which discussed about employment opportunities : How to use unemployed Youth for Volunteering. This session was labelled as a Global session and it was interesting to learn how organizations were tapping into the potential force of unemployed youths. This had a take away message for NGO’s who should think of working with the Government in getting the unemployed youth force to become volunteers and then the volunteering provides them an opportunity to build their career.
 
At 10.30 I headed to the main auditorium for the next session titled “Providing better future for the Kids”, which was a panel discussion on what should be done with respect to investing in Education to improve future for the children. All the speakers in this session were excellent and were making remarks on what they thought as effective investments Non Profits and Government should be making in terms of providing children a better future. It was really interesting to listen to Ms. Reba from Target (they were the primary sponsors for this session and also one of the major sponsor for the conference) mentioning about learning quality and learning outcomes. Though the speakers spoke about many things in context to America, I felt that a lot of those can be replicated in India as well. 
 
I then rushed to the refreshment counter to grab my lunch. By the day 2, I was able to recognize many faces and many people were able to recognize me as well. I had a good network of friends by now. At the lunch table I met a couple of international delegates with whom I had lunch. We discussed about the FIFA World Cup and the delegates from Brazil were so thrilled about their match with Mexico that evening. Some said that they were planning to leave to the hotel room to see the match. I had a session to catch up at 12.30 and rushed to the hall and found that it was a luncheon where they provided lunch :-P…. This was on Building Social Capital and was a panel discussion. This session had talks which spoke about having more civic engagement in initiatives by organizations. I found this session a little boring in the middle :-).
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AT 2.30, after grabbing a cup of coffee from Starbucks, I moved to the next session which was Not your everyday Volunteer, which was another panel discussion on innovations in Volunteering. In fact the entire theme for the second day was on Innovation. This session was so engrossing. The panellists were so experienced and were able to tell stories from their work on how they formulated social entrepreneurship programs. Not many people discuss about failures in session but in this session we spoke about failure and learnings from failure. It had 45 minutes of panel discussion and 45 minutes of Question and Answers. I had aquestion which I posted to the panel and got some ideas. What was more interesting was after the session one of the panellists come to me and was discussing to learn about the work I was doing as the question I had posted was interesting to him. Also another participant came to me saying that she will be happy to help me in finding some possible solution as her organization was also working on something similar. This was really pleasing!.
 
I was a little tired by the evening after attending back to back session but was thrilled by the fact that I was getting to converse with so many people. One more thing which I felt was I was able to share so much from my work experience which people found very useful. I had knowingly or unknowingly taking volunteerism more professionally and found that many of my approaches were being discussed here. I now seriously believe that I can now certainly conduct such sessions in future in India :-).
 
Later in the evening, we all were invited for a networking dinner at the World of Coca-Cola. We reached there a little early by around 6.10 but even by then the drinks and the dinner were ready. I got to meet the Hands On international affiates who were by now good friends and have dinner with them. The food was amazing in the evening. We took some photos and were deeply discussing about the tied Brail Mexico World Cup match. I had to leave by 7.30 to meet AID Atlanta volunteers. So I didn’t get any time to see the Secret Vault of Coca-Cola or got a chance to taste the different flavour of Coke.  And yeah, I now remember that after being in Atlanta for about 4 days now, I haven’t done any sight seeing!… That is the amount of engagement the conference had to offer so far… Let me see if I can get a chance to go somewhere on Day 3!
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