Millions of Australians of all ages participate in volunteer work – 6.1 million of us did so in 2010. If you’ve been teetering on the brink of volunteering, but are unsure of the best steps to take to become involved, here are 10 ideas on how to get going.
10 ideas to get you underway
Begin by doing some background reading, for example, by visiting the website of peak organisation Volunteering Australia. This will help you clarify why you want to volunteer, how much time you’d like to commit and the skills, talents and life experience which you may be able to offer.
Two important things to remember from the outset are:
- you can volunteer for an hour a week or less and still make a difference
- you don’t need to have a deep passion for a particular cause – all volunteering helps build stronger communities.
Try before you buy
Next, plan to ‘try before you buy’. By participating in a single event or other short-term volunteer roles, you can get a feel for volunteering, even if you eventually choose to volunteer elsewhere. You can also start tweaking your volunteer skills, by taking on board any training offered and watching seasoned volunteers at work. These 10 ideas (in no particular order) can help you find your ‘try before you buy’ volunteering opportunity.
1. Visit Volunteering Australia’s GoVolunteer website. It lists both one-off opportunities (such as volunteering at a major event) and short-term roles.
2. Support outreach/fundraising activities run by your local church, schools, service or sporting clubs, e.g. baking for/staffing cake stalls, helping at sausage sizzles. Watch your community noticeboard and/or newspaper for appeals for volunteers.
3. Try your hand at leaflet-dropping, for example, for politicians during elections, or organisations such as the local Neighbourhood House or Community Centre.
4. Does a friend’s volunteer activity appeal to you? Ask if you can shadow them while they’re ‘on the job’.
5. Contact your local RSL, whether you’re a member or not. They are always seeking volunteers for their appeal days, as well as for longer-term community support activities.
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6. Volunteer to assist less mobile neighbours with gardening, dog-walking, shopping or similar. If you enjoy this, volunteer for more of the same through your local council.
7. Do you know someone new to Australia? An hour a week spent introducing them to Australian life and, if needed, helping them to practise speaking English, could make all the difference.
8. Hospital auxiliaries provide many support services to patients. Join one near you and find out if you enjoy volunteering in this environment.
9. Get involved in well-resourced events such as Clean Up Australia Day, Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea and Movember. You can usually organise your own activity or join someone else’s to see how it’s done.
10. Join your local Men’s Shed; you can usually participate as much or as little as you like.
Keep it simple
Since this first venture into volunteering will be something of a trial run, opt for ‘try before you buy’ roles that don’t require a lot of training. Apart from the commitment required, it’s unfair to ask organisations with limited resources to train you if you might soon drop out.
Visit Volunteering Australia for more information (includes links to state/territory volunteering organisations).