10 Ways to Be the Best Volunteer - The City Mission of Cleveland, Ohio

Summer days are almost here, and many of us our considering how we can use the warmer weather and extra daylight to give back to our community through volunteering.

Volunteering with a new organization for the first time, or volunteering for the first time ever can be overwhelming for many people! At The City Mission, our goal is to help you feel comfortable and knowledgeable before you even step through the door. Here are 10 ways to help you prepare to serve, avoid burnout, and maintain excitement while empowering others in any volunteer role at the Mission or elsewhere!

1. Start!

A quick Google search will pull up hundreds of volunteer opportunities across the city. Where do you begin? Try to look for an opportunity that serves a cause close to your heart, and then see how your unique abilities can be utilized.

At The City Mission, potential volunteers begin their application by attending one of our monthly Prospective Volunteer Introductions (PVI). PVI’s help people learn about the organization and volunteer opportunities, so that they can determine what role will be the best fit for their time and talents.

Summer is an especially great time to begin volunteering, because many day camp programs for children in need resume in place of school. At The City Mission, recovery programming continues for moms at Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, which means creating engaging, fun, educational activities for students on break becomes a large undertaking for staff. Consider starting your volunteer career by providing for kids programming through a one-time-service opportunity like Adopt-a-Day!

2. Commit

Once you decide on the organization you’d like to volunteer with, take the plunge and commit to an opportunity. You can make a difference whether you serve one time or weekly. Be sure to stay faithful to your scheduled times and give advance notice if you need to miss a day. Coordinating volunteers is no small task, so be a great volunteer by respecting the time of both clients and staff wherever you serve.

3. Be Flexible

Day-to-day activities at a nonprofit can vary greatly depending on the season and the challenges an organization is facing at any particular moment. As a volunteer, roll with unanticipated changes in your schedule and be willing to assist with unexpected tasks if needed. This type of flexibility is highly appreciated whenever the staff needs to prioritize something they didn’t anticipate.

4. Enjoy Yourself

Volunteering doesn’t have to be hard – in fact, it can be a lot of fun! Use volunteering to explore a hobby or teach it to others. Be creative with the services and talents you bring. Get excited to make a difference. And make new friends along the way!

5. Volunteer with Others

Speaking of friends, why not recruit some to volunteer with you? Volunteering with family, coworkers, church group or a significant other is a free and rewarding way to bond and learn about one another.

At The City Mission, groups can easily volunteer by preparing a meal, providing games and decorations for a holiday event, landscaping, or simply hanging out with guests and watching baseball on TV. Volunteering with others can allow you to feel more comfortable right off the bat, and encourage those you’re serving by showing them that many people care.

6. Volunteer Your Ideas.

If you have an idea, speak up! Your outsider perspective could spot how an organization could be doing something more efficiently, effectively, or consistently. You have unique talents and skills to share, and a nonprofit could greatly benefit from fresh thoughts.

7. Remember Who You Are Serving.

Ultimately, the goal is to give – not to get. If your volunteer role involves interaction with the clients of an organization, it’s important to remember that these individuals might be going through very difficult trials in their life. Activities may not always go as planned, interactions might not always be easy, and preconceived notions may be challenged as you serve.

The City Mission is home to almost 300 people between Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center and Crossroads Men’s Crisis Center, and these guests don’t get to leave when the day is through. Be prepared to rethink your expectations about people, places and ideas.

8. Learn something new.

Organizations appreciate the donation of your time and are excited to give back to you too by helping you gain new skills and knowledge from your volunteer experience.

9. Don’t overcommit.

As eager as you are to make a difference, it’s important not to let service projects rule your schedule. Make sure you balance your time carefully so that your professional, personal or family life doesn’t take a critical hit.

10. Be You.

Volunteering should use your unique talents, skills, and personality – whether you’re teaching sign language or computer shortcuts, baking cookies or playing football, your strengths can make The City Mission and other organizations a better place to be.

Hopefully this list is helpful to new and old volunteers wherever you choose to serve! Your time is valuable, and becomes even more valuable when you use it to empower people, serve organizations and transform communities. If you’re interested in volunteer opportunities with The City Mission, sign up for a Prospective Volunteer Introduction or apply for a group project today!

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