Advice from a Seasoned Volunteer

I’ve been a service volunteer (candy striper, tutor, Sunday school teacher, Cub Scout leader) since I was a teenager and a board volunteer for almost 40 years. Here is what I consider essential advice.

Getting Started

  • Decide if you prefer service or board volunteer or a mix of both
  • Determine how much time you have to volunteer
  • Choose an organization about which you care a lot. Volunteer on a committee or in a limited way to see if you still love the organization after you get more involved
  • Ask your friends what volunteer work is bringing great meaning to their lives
  • Before joining a board, always ask for a written set of expectations which addresses attendance, committee service and financial requirements
  • Be 100% in agreement with the organization’s written mission statement
  • Try to say yes to your children’s school or place of worship
  • Definitely say no if that’s your first instinct
  • Never say yes on the same day that you are asked to do a big job

Board Service Basics

  • Never miss two consecutive meetings
  • Prepare fully for meetings by reading all distributed materials and noting questions you have
  • Participate actively in discussions but monitor your comments. Reflect after the meeting about whether or not your comments added value
  • Contribute financially and ask others to do so
  • Cheerlead for your organization. Prepare an “elevator speech” to quickly explain its mission
  • Say yes to leadership opportunities but choose your own timetable
  • Actively recruit other board members

Are You Having Fun?
If you’re feeling burned out by a volunteer commitment:

  • Reflect on why you feel this way
  • Revisit the organization’s mission and way the mission is being executed
  • Consider a new way to serve the organization is your passion is still intact
  • Take a break to recharge your batteries