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6 things you need to know before you volunteer

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We interviewed charities to get the basics of volunteering.

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At some point in your life, you’ve probably made a pact with yourself to give back to the community.

Despite the best of intentions, your ‘do-good’ attitude can get forgotten; especially when you’re trying to juggle a budget, complete a big work project, book flights to Fiji, and organise dinner with mates – all while pursuing washboard abs and finishing that bestselling book on self-enlightenment.

But, volunteering shouldn’t just be another chore to add to your to-do list. We spoke to some charity organisations to get the insider tips on what you need to know when you’re ready to start volunteering (and how you can get a whole lot out of it!).

1. Choose a passion

Once you’ve committed to use your powers for the greater good, it’s time to find a charity, but instead of opting for the most obvious choices, why not choose a cause that really, truly makes your soul sing?

Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Karynne Crump explains the importance of choosing an organisation that’s close to your heart.

“If it’s something you’re passionate about, you’re not only more likely to enjoy the volunteering experience – your positivity will impact other volunteers and you are more likely to continue volunteering.”

2. Know your strengths

Before you sign up to volunteer, it’s time to have a bit of self-reflection and consider your strengths and whether you’ve had any experience that might add value to an organisation – and it doesn’t have to be the obvious.

Finance whiz? Maybe you can help balance the books. Got the gift of the gab? Maybe you can help disadvantaged teens with some job interviewing tips. Love baking? Maybe you can help teach cooking classes.

Think outside the box and you might be surprised at how many hidden talents you can tap into!

“Our corporate volunteering program, nibGIVE, encourages people to consider not only their professional skills which may be sought after by our charity partners, but also their personal skills. Focusing on skills ensures that charities get high quality support and employees feel confident during their volunteering,” says nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe.

Finance whiz? Maybe you can help balance the books! Love baking? You can help teach cooking classes!

3. Combine your goals

Believe it or not, volunteering is not a one way street. All it takes is a little thought and you can use it to help you reach some of your own goals. If you want to get fit, opt for some more active volunteering like planting trees or building shelters or if you’re keen to improve your social skills, opt for people-facing volunteer work.

“Volunteering has evolved so much over the last few decades and at Camp Quality, we have a huge variety of volunteering positions we need filled – Recreation Volunteers, Fundraising Event Volunteers and also Office Volunteers,” says Camp Quality’s Vanessa Bullman.

4. Know your limitations

Just as important as recognising your strength is recognising your limitations. Are you physically able to do heavy lifting? Do you have any emotional triggers? Can you only commit to certain hours and days of the week? Do you have access to transport?

“We encourage our volunteers to let us know if they have any limitations – especially when it comes to medical conditions. We don’t use this information to stop them from helping out; it’s just so we can make sure we create a safe environment for them,” says Karynne Crump.

5. Expand your horizons

Ever heard of virtual volunteering? If you prefer to help out from the comfort of your own home, you can always offer your skills to help with resume writing or typing out essays for uni students with physical disabilities. If you’re interested in virtual volunteering, check out Vollie for a list of current opportunities to lend a hand.

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6. Grab a friend

Life is always more fun when you’ve got a mate by your side – so grab a friend, or be prepared to make new ones!

“Volunteering is great way to get involved in your community, and connect with people with similar interests. In the workplace, team volunteering allows you to meet people from across the business whom you may not usually work with, or build stronger relationships with your immediate colleagues,” Amy Tribe says.

Interested in volunteering? Check out our article 4 surprising health benefits of volunteering

*We’re helping people to live healthier lives through nib foundation. We’ve committed over $21 million in funding to support 166 charity partners to deliver innovative programs that tackle important health issues. Learn more about nib foundation.

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