So you want to volunteer . . .

Mark from invsablepeople.tv brought up the issue that it is really hard to be seen and used by non-profits and become a volunteer.

I have suggestions:

  1. Don’t just show up uninvited. When a stranger rings your doorbell and you are not expecting company – isn’t it inconvenient? It is just awkward for everybody. They need the help, you want to help, but they had not planned and arraigned to have the help right then and all the other pieces are not in place.  Pretty much the only things that are wonderful to have crash a normal work day are 1. money and 2. donations of food. Everything else requires storage and man power that may not be on hand.
  2. Try a Volunteer Dating service – okay, that is what I call them. They call themselves things like “Volunteer Match” and “The Volunteer Center of Los Angeles” and LA Works” . These businesses already have relationships with charities, businesses, churches/temples/etc and the like. They know who is looking for help, they type of help that is needed and can schedule you for an appointment at the agency with assigned work to do.
  3. Use social media – Follow, Favorite, Join the fan page of the places you want to support. Read about them and then connect in the conversation stream. It’s like advertising, once your name is familiar to them – they are more likely to want what you have to offer, Namely YOU. (You don’t have to be a freak like me -I follow every agency I have ever admired on Twitter and if they have a Fan Page, I join on Facebook.  You don’t have to do that: homeless issues are my hobby, not yours)
  4. Read the website of the agency and especially look at the Up-coming events information.  What event is happening and what volunteers they need will be posted there. Follow their instructions and get plugged in.
  5. Use the web and see who the Board of Directors are – these folks are not usually involved in the day -to-day goings on of the agency, but they have pull. Also, they have made a commitment in their  free time to help this cause and are usually open to people who feel the way that they do. Often on the agency page you will see the list of the board and their email information. Be brief, informative and friendly. Also, give them a week or so to respond to you because they are usually very busy. Try something like this:

“Dear Mr. Board of Director Guy (Insert real title and name)

My name is Sonya Keith and I have 25 snow suits, 30 pounds of canned food and a boy scout troop looking for a good deed. I am not sure who to contact at Invisablepoeple.TV to offer these resources in ways .

Please connect me to someone at Invisablepeople.tv or pass along my information : Sonya Keith homelssinla@gmail.com (626)555-1212.”

BRAVO! and Good for you for wanting to volunteer.

Before you volunteer though, make an inventory of how you can be the BEST volunteer.

Know the answers to the following questions before you meet with anyone to volunteer, Chances are, they are going to ask you:

What are you willing to do?/What do you want to do?

Why do you want to volunteer? Volunteering for fun means you can go to any agency and give your time. Community service hours in high school are not the same as community service for court and sometimes you have to volunteer at specific places. The same is true if you are doing CalWORKs community service.

What are your specific skills?.

See, I am a talker. I volunteer and lead “coffee talks”, discussions of current events, etc. I know it sounds stupid, but conversation and including people in normal every day discussions is excellent for mental health. Everyone wants to feel like they “belong”.
I have a friend who is a painter and has set up Art Therapy for homeless people. Through donations and his own money, he buys supplies and eventually some clients buy their own too, and teaches painting and drawing. Occasionally just a big bucket of crayons and paper or coloring books can be a low mess stress reliever while fostering a sense of inclusion.
Can you cook? Hot meals are always appreciated. Let the agency know that you are a good cook and willing to work their kitchen.
Do you garden or other manual labor? Handy man skills can be golden to a place that no longer has a maintenance budget.

What will you refuse to do? (hey, you will be bad at something you hate and then never come back. No one wins if you suffer through your volunteerism).

How long do you want to volunteer? Is this a one time gig or something you want to do annually, monthly, weekly, etc?

Do you have a clean criminal record?

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