Sunday, January 17, 2010

Helping your PRC: Be a Good Volunteer

If you feel inspired to volunteer your time and service in a needed area for your local pregnancy resource center, be sure that you're not just a volunteer, but a good volunteer.

5 Tips for being a good volunteer:

(And note, these apply to any type of volunteering!)

1) Know your limits
Volunteering 20 hours a week answering phones, maintaining the office, and helping with the landscaping at your PRC might sound good, but be honest with yourself. Do not bite off more than you can chew. Don't volunteer to do something you know you is more than you can handle. Even if you think you can handle it, it's far better to ease into the jobs and gradually build up to your goal.

2) Don't be drafted
The converse of the above. You might know your limits, but you cave when the PRC director begs you to take on 8 jobs all at once because they desperately need to be done. Be honest, be upfront: if you know you can't handle it, tell her now. Offer a reasonable alternative. E.g.: Offer to do the 2 most important jobs instead of all 8. Then offer to help recruit another volunteer.

3) Avoid burnout
Please do Numbers 1 and 2 for this very reason! Volunteers who don't follow those burnout quick. Volunteers who stick to their limits, however, are able to accomplish more work over a longer period of time. And that's really what means the most to a PRC! PRCs (and other non-profits) need dedicated, long-term volunteers.

4) Put your heart in it!
Love volunteering! Make sure that what you do brings you some sort of happiness, fulfillment or satisfaction. Be aware: PRCs are very emotionally challenging and draining places to work. If you find the task you've been given is too stressful, ask to change to something you can really love. We all need to be pulled up, not dragged down! A cheery volunteer is one of the best things you can find.

5) Little things and consistency
That's the key right there.
Little things
Sometimes you might not feel that your volunteer task is all that special or important, but it is. For example, we often ask volunteers to decorate white paper lunch bags with an assortment of baby themed rubber stamps. It seems menial, but we use those bags to give our clients brouchures, prenatal vitamins, and other items. Those cute little stamps add a special touch that further emphasizes "this is a baby!"
Don't be a fair weather volunteer. By volunteering you made a committment and people depend on you. Stick to it! We really don't want to hear you call in the morning with some lame excuse that clearly means you just feel like sleeping in. Sure you don't get a paycheck, but to most non-profits, especially PRCs volunteers are just as essential to the daily opperations as are the paid staff.

Volunteers matter!


Francesca Pio said...

Good advice! Thanks for the reminders, Mary Liz!

Margaret Mary said...

I also work with a number of volunteers (not at a PRC but with our church's religious ed. program), and this advice applies there as well. Volunteer help allows us to go beyond what's essential and add those extra touches that make the program special. For example, in one of our lessons this month on the sanctity of life, we gave each family one of those little models of a baby 12 weeks after conception. Our volunteers cut out several hundred tiny flannel blankets to send home with the babies.

They label envelopes, prep craft projects, collate papers, make calls and lots more. We LOVE our volunteers!