Make Your Volunteer Experience a Great One


Filed under Work & Volunteering

If you volunteered last year, you’re in good company. Fifty-seven percent of American adults said they volunteered for a nonprofit, church, school or charitable cause, according to a national survey by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans — a financial services organization that offers volunteer opportunities as part of its mission. What the organization learned in its national poll of American adults could help you make the most of your volunteer experiences.

Seventy-six percent of those who volunteer reported that aside from helping others, they volunteer to act on their moral values. That core motivation was true for the large majority of volunteers, regardless of whether they attended religious services weekly (80 percent}, a few times a month or year (72 percent) or never attended at all (66 percent).

That said, the first rule to make your volunteer experience a great one is to look for an organization or cause that is closely aligned with your personal values. The closer the connection, the better you will feel about your service.

“Connect with organizations whose missions match your values,” says Brad Hewitt, Thrivent Financial senior vice president of volunteer programs. “You will find no greater satisfaction than contributing to an organization or cause that aligns with your principles and makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Thrivent Financial’s survey also found that 47 percent of volunteers said that having new experiences was either an absolutely important or very important factor in why they volunteer. Unfortunately, that desire often conflicts with the way organizations manage their volunteers. People often get pigeonholed into doing a certain volunteer task because they’ve “done it before.” The result? Some organizations continually tap the same person to do the same job, which can easily lead to burnout.

To eliminate this problem, Hewitt offers a second rule for volunteers: say “no” to tasks that sap your strength rather than energize you. “If you’re invited to serve in a role that doesn’t excite you,” observes Hewitt, “politely decline the offer, but ask if there’s another role within the organization that might benefit from your service. Don’t settle for the usual when a change in assignments could potentially lead to new experiences and more satisfaction.”

Thirty-nine percent of American volunteers said that meeting new people was an important motivator in their

volunteerism. This was especially true of seniors, nearly half of whom (48 percent) said meeting new people was an important reason why they volunteer.

This leads to the final rule for creating a great volunteer experience: match your volunteer role to the amount of “people time” you find stimulating. People who love being around other people should look for volunteer roles that enable them to frequently interact with others, while those who enjoy time by themselves should look for tasks that require infrequent interaction.

“We’re all wired differently,” says Hewitt. “The key is to make sure that the person coordinating your volunteer service knows the type of people environment you prefer.” By following these three basic rules, you can ensure that your volunteer experience is a great one.

To learn about volunteer opportunities in your community, contact your local volunteer center, United Way, house of worship, or call (800) THRIVENT (1-800-847-4836). For a listing of volunteer centers nationwide, visit the Points of Light Foundation at

Article courtesy of ARA Content

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