Tips for how to choose a volunteering role

Tips for how to choose a volunteering role

Volunteering roles are found everywhere in the community for such a wide range of causes that it’s impossible to make a list of them all.

Key points

  • Different volunteering roles might suit some people more than others
  • Understanding what the role is and other details such as location, time commitment and who you will work with are important before you sign up
  • Thinking about why you want to volunteer and matching your interests can help you to find the role that fits you best

But with so many different options, if you’re looking for a new volunteering role it can be hard to know where to start and how to choose what kind of positive impact you want to make.

Understanding what the role is, thinking about the accessibility of any locations where you would be volunteering and the organisation’s ability to make adjustments you might need, knowing the reasons why you want to volunteer and looking for something that matches your interests can all help with the choice.

Understanding the role

Understanding details about your role will help you plan to fit volunteering in with any other commitments you have, arrange transport and organise any supports you might need so you can get the most out of the time you spend volunteering.

Before signing up for any volunteering opportunity you should find out:

  • What tasks it will involve
  • How many hours a week it will take
  • What days you will be expected to volunteer on, or whether the role is flexible and you can choose the days and hours
  • Where the volunteering will take place so you can arrange transport to get there
  • Who you will be volunteering with and whether it will be as part of a team, in a pair or on your own
  • Whether it is an ongoing role or you will only be needed for a single event, a few months or a year
  • Whether you will need to do any training before starting the role and the details of the training

The key to setting yourself up for the best experience possible is to know how long you want to volunteer for and choose a role that fits your timeframe.

For example, if you want to volunteer for one day a week, every week, and you would like the role to be similar to an ongoing long term job where you have a consistent shift every week, a volunteer position in a warehouse for an organisation like Foodbank might suit you.

If you’re looking for a short term volunteering role, a position helping to organise or set up a community event like a Christmas pageant, music festival or art exhibition could be ideal.

For health and safety reasons, you also want to make sure the role doesn’t involve any tasks you are unable to do if you can’t get someone else to support you with them. If you have a shoulder injury, for example, and you will be volunteering alone while lifting heavy objects, then that role is not a good fit.

Knowing the organisation

Some volunteer organisations are more inclusive of people with disability than others.

You can look for organisations that have a Disability Action Plan, or similar policies, or you can contact the organisations you’re interested in and ask them about how they would make any adjustments you might need, or how accessible their locations are.

Adjustments could be as simple as providing you with a chair to sit on while you are volunteering if you can’t stand up for the whole volunteer shift, and an inclusive organisation will work with you to make sure you are supported.

Most organisations that you might like to volunteer for will have a range of different roles to choose from, so you could start your search for volunteering opportunities by first choosing an organisation you like.

Locations

It’s important your volunteer job is done in an environment that suits you.

For example, if you will need to volunteer in a crowded room as part of a role serving meals to people who are homeless, but noise triggers sensory overload for you, that environment and role might not suit you.

You might be more suited to an environmental volunteering role that involves weeding a patch of native vegetation.

If you use a wheelchair, volunteering to pull out weeds might not be accessible to you as it might be done in areas where there are no wheelchair-accessible trails. However, as an alternative example, there might be an environmental volunteering role involving picking up rubbish in city areas that you could take part in.

Many buildings and locations where volunteer organisations operate may not have a level access point or may not have accessible toilets available, so keep this in mind when you’re considering your options.

Reasons for volunteering

The reason why you are volunteering is important to keep in mind as you want to make sure your role fits this.

If you are volunteering for work experience in retail, for example, spending time volunteering for Meals on Wheels would not be as helpful as volunteering experience in an op shop.

Volunteering to build your social network would fit better with a role where you work alongside lots of different people, perhaps in the emergency services or at a Surf Life Saving club, rather than a role where you feed the animals by yourself in a welfare shelter, for example.

Interests and passions

Time flies when you’re having fun, so volunteering in a role that you enjoy, that matches your interests and passions, will bring you even more positive benefits.

If you have a passion for a particular sport you could become a volunteer on your local sporting club’s committee, become a coach, team manager, umpire or other official, or even volunteer to be involved in the groundskeeping, maintenance or equipment side of the sport.

For people who are interested in practical projects or construction, that interest could be paired with a volunteering program at a men’s shed or a local community centre that runs upcycling and repair programs.

Finding an opportunity that matches your interests and passions is also a great way of meeting more like-minded people who you can easily bond with by talking about your shared interests.

How did you choose where to volunteer? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:
Employment and volunteering options
Job hunting tips: Finding work when living with a disability
Volunteering opens up a world of opportunities

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