From my experience and purposes at times I talk about volunteering in the lung cancer community and supporting those affected by the disease, but these tips are pretty universal.
1) Decide what it is you like to do.
This one is a no brainer. Someone who isn't handy with tools won't be the best candidate to help rebuild homes. Someone who can't speak Spanish, won't be the best choice to help in an ESL class in Texas. So think about what it is you like to do and realistically what it is that you can do.
With LUNGevity we have several volunteer opportunities. You can offer peer-to-peer support, you can volunteer your business skills, you can volunteer for a LUNGevity event in your area, you can become a LUNGevity advocate and help raise awareness and spread the word. That's a lot of different ways to volunteer.
2) Find your personal connection.
A personal connection to a cause is why most people volunteer their time, money and efforts. For us, our volunteers are lung cancer fighters, survivors, caregivers, families, friends and co-workers. Everyone has been affected directly or indirectly and feel the need to do more to make a difference. By finding a cause that you have a personal connection to you'll feel rewarded by putting your efforts into that cause.
3) Find satisfaction in what you are doing.
Someone who hates asking for donations or raising money for a cause will probably not be very successful or satisfied in that position. Are you a people person? Do you like engaging others? Can you make a great elevator pitch and are you a salesman at heart? Then volunteering in development, finance, and events will be right up your alley. Every dollar raised is a personal goal and is personally satisfactory to you.
Not a salesman at heart? Maybe you're an event coordinator, someone who can organize a meeting or rally or support group? Every successful event is a personal win for you.
Are you more emotionally oriented? Then you would be the perfect support buddy for someone else in need of mentor ship, guidance and support. You may feel satisfaction bringing support materials and items to a support center or hospital. Helping others thru difficult times is personally rewarding to you.
4) Know when enough is enough and know when to say no.
A pitfall that some volunteers fall into is over extending themselves. They have the best of intentions, volunteer for a number of activities or responsibilities and for some, eventually their work, family and personal lives begin to suffer.
Volunteering may then begin to feel like a burden or a heavy responsibility that they want to be rid of. We don't want you to feel that way.
This may become a problem for the organization you're volunteering for too.
When a volunteer signs on to do something, those in the organization depend on them to carry out their commitments. We place those responsibilities in the volunteers' hands and turn our energies to something else believing that the tasks will be completed. If the volunteer over extends themselves and fails to complete their volunteer hours or tasks, the organization and those they serve suffers. Organizations that offer patient and family support also depend on volunteers. When they don't follow through, the patient and their family suffers. And it's a poor reflection on the organization.
Know your limits. Know when to say no and do it from the beginning. This is key advice for the volunteer and helpful to the organization. We want your help but would rather have your help in bite size pieces than to have things not get done.
5) Lastly, don't be afraid to try.
Reach above your comfort zone and try your hand at helping others, delivering materials or raising awareness, join an event committee or participate in an event just to get your feet wet. Volunteer to share your experiences with someone else who is in need. Make calls, deliveries, or send cards or messages to brighten the day of a patient. Be an ear for someone who doesn't have a support system and who needs peer-to-peer support.
Volunteering can be tailored to suit your lifestyle and life skills and those that volunteer play a vital and priceless role.
There are so many ways in which you can enrich lives by volunteering-
including your own.