The Virginia Beach Office of Volunteer Resources receives inquiries daily from people with the best intentions to make a difference in our community.
Most calls begin similarly: “I want to volunteer, but I don’t know where to start.” There is no telling where the conversation will go once we have the chance to dive deeper into the motivation of the individual.
Some people may be motivated by a higher power. They may have a specific skill or talent. Others may reach out at the urging of a parent, a commanding officer or even a court order.
One thing is for sure: most people need some coaching to find their fit.
Here are a few high-mileage questions for people who are looking to recruit volunteers or would like to volunteer themselves.
Why are you interested in volunteering? If you ask yourself this question five times, you can get to the root cause of where your motivation lies. What attracts you to the idea of volunteering may not be what keeps you volunteering. Whether you are looking to make new friends or find your second career, volunteering can be a great way to test out new or unknown talents.
Who are you? In the case of seeking volunteer opportunity, frame your answer to “what type of person are you?” Are you quiet or outspoken? Do you thrive solo or in teams? Are you motivated by learning, teaching, coaching, mentoring or facilitating? Do you prefer a professional or more laid-back work environment? Your personality and skill set will play a major role in finding your fit.
What exactly do you want to be doing? What type of work are you looking for? Do you want to work in the medical field, in an office environment, at a recreation center, helping the environment, caring for animals, teaching children, socializing with seniors, serving on a board, or enhancing the specific shade of green in your thumb? The diverse volunteer opportunities our area has are exciting, but they also may be overwhelming to a prospective volunteer. Try to narrow down what exactly you want to be doing with your time. Remember, time is one of our most valuable non-renewable resources.
Where do I want to volunteer? Proximity is more important than you may think. Convenience of volunteerism is a major factor with retention. The excitement of volunteering at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center may get you in the door, but, when you are sitting in summer traffic from Muddy Creek to General Booth or from Kempsville to the North End, you may have second thoughts. Seek out opportunities that are convenient to places you travel to frequently. There are tons of opportunities within miles of your home that you drive past daily without giving it a second thought.
When would you most like to get involved? Your “when” goes beyond your start date. Begin to think about your schedule. What time of year is best for you? What kind of commitment are you willing to make? What days and times are you free? Do you love to travel or live in a different state for part of the year? Are you going off to college or looking for a job in the near future? Would you prefer to volunteer episodically or on a regular schedule? All of these questions will help you determine the kind of time you can dedicate to your future volunteer role.
For example, to volunteer as an emergency medical technician, or EMT, there is significant training and a minimum volunteer requirement. With that also comes a wonderful ability to help people when they are at their worst and an added benefit of immediate acceptance into the family of Virginia Beach volunteer rescue squads.
Maybe that kind of commitment is a little intimidating. Start out with Clean the Bay Day. This event happens once a year, and you are trained on the spot to go out and make a huge impact in one day.
No matter who you are or what your motivation is, we likely have the perfect opportunity for you to get involved. Please reach us. We will happily help you find your fit.
Zibutis is the volunteer resources coordinator for the city of Virginia Beach. Visit vbgov.com/volunteer, call (757) 385-4722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved or to learn more about volunteering opportunities with the city.
Read additional essays in and responses to this series at this link.
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