Considering myself a Volunteer…


There is a certain amount of joy that comes from giving.  Whether it is financially or of your time and effort.  When we invest in someone and they succeed there is a deep feeling of satisfaction that comes over us.  On the other hand, when we invest and they do not succeed we get angry and hurt and it often ruins us from trying again.  I want to encourage these people to try again, and do it wisely.  The beauty of living in South Africa in a time such as this is we have plenty opportunity to engage and bring about positive change.  If every one of us saw the opportunity to be a community changer in some small way, we would definitely see a society that the world would look towards for guidance.

Working in We are Durban has given me plenty of opportunity to work with volunteers.  I have seen pitfalls and victories and I would like to share some guidance to make your volunteer experience beneficial for all parties involved; you, the beneficiaries and the organisation you partner with.

Before you engage do some soul searching.  Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with your answers;

  • Why do I want to volunteer? It may be that you want to give back to society, or you have some spare time to fill, you may be lonely and want to meet other people, you may think you are so fantastic at everything you do so you could solve the problems that everyone is having, or you are being forced to by work or school, there might be any number of reasons. Be aware that whatever your reason for volunteering is, it will come out in the quality of service you offer and the relationships you form there.
  • How much time do I have to give? This is important to know upfront otherwise you or someone is going be disappointed and struggle with you. Is it one hour a week, a morning, a month or is it full time, be clear.
  • What do you have to give? Everyone has talents and abilities. Sometime these are just what the organisation needs and sometimes they just need an extra responsible person around.  One of the best ways you can serve a need is by knowing what you have to offer up front and essentially telling the organisation you want to come in and offer this or that service and these will be the benefits of that.  In a way that will not drain the organisation and will not require the organisation to raise funds to cover you.
  • Am I able to be consistent? There is a reason you go into work every day, your employer needs a job done.  If you volunteer you will be given a task that needs to be done, if you are inconsistent or unreliable you will be given tasks that do not actually matter.  This will be demoralising and you will eventually stop.
  • What would I like to see changed in the world? We are all wired differently, some of us love children, some of us are angry with human trafficking or prostitution, some have the grace to bring some dignity to the homeless person and others wish drugs had a face so that they could punch it… there are so many issues that could be tackled. What does your heart bleed for? If I cannot post a picture of me doing this on social media would I still want to do it? Do this thing and it will make your work you do in that field so much sweeter, your victories greater and your asks of others way easier.
  • Am I a starter, a worker or a finisher? Most people are naturally one of these. If you realise what part in the process you best fit, you can suggest to the organisation that this is where you would best serve.  I know for me I like to start things, give a vision and a system and let someone else finish it.  It is hard for me to maintain my energy and focus to the end, but when it is complete I get very excited.

Volunteering should be an extension of who you are.  It should be natural and freeing and not something in which you have to study to fill a position.  If you are volunteering out of your capacity, you will find it difficult and a slog and it you will eventually quit. You are a solution to an organisation’s problem, you need to be true to who you are to fill their need.  Take the time to know you, before you try to fix someone else.

Written by: Linda Morrison