How to Be a Great Volunteer

Sometimes, just knowing you are doing a good deed makes it worthwhile
BY Bill Lindsey TIMEJanuary 19, 2023 PRINT

Every organization from the Red Cross to a neighborhood garage sale relies on volunteers for free labor, but sometimes you get what you pay for. Here are a few ways to be the volunteer everybody wants helping them.

Be Enthusiastic

Choose a cause that excites you. By showing up ready to work hard and make a difference, your positive energy is a great example to empower other volunteers. The definition of a volunteer is a person who will provide a service without being paid; when you add enthusiasm, a big smile, and an “I’ll do it!” attitude, whatever you do will become fun, from a beach clean-up to painting an older neighbor’s house.

Be a Team Player

Doing good deeds often involves working with other volunteers and sometimes with those benefiting from your efforts. Everyone brings a unique set of skills and abilities to the table, so make a point of determining what you do best that will help ensure the success of the team. This means cooperating with others, from lifting heavy loads to brainstorming poster design ideas. Actively listen to and elicit the input of your fellow volunteers.

Be Reliable

It may be tempting not to show up for an early-morning meeting, but others are relying on you to be there, so crawl out of bed and show up with a big mug of coffee and a smile on your face. When a task is assigned, complete it on time. If you are unsure how to accomplish it, ask questions right away; if you realize that you don’t have the skills to make it happen, or it conflicts with your personal or work life, speak up immediately.

Be Fun and Flexible

Even the toughest tasks are easier when everyone has a great attitude and knows they can lean on each other. Being flexible is a good trait for volunteers; sometimes situations change, requiring a complete redo of the plan. If that happens, smile and do everything possible to make Plan B a success. Nobody likes a diva or a know-it-all, so be prepared to work your way up in the organization by being the person everyone wants to work with.

Go Beyond

Being a volunteer is a great way to improve practical and social skills, and it can lead to lifelong friendships. The most critical requirement is a genuine desire to make a positive difference in someone else’s life, even if you’ll never receive thanks. A good volunteer will look for ways to make the group’s efforts ever more successful, thinking “outside the box” to suggest more streamlined, focused ways of providing assistance to others.

Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.
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