Did you know that 34 per cent of the adult population in Australia contribute more than 700 million hours each year volunteering? Being generous with your time can be a great way to get out of the house and meet new people. But you don’t have to give up your whole week – becoming a volunteer can mean giving as little as an hour a week, or even a few weekends a year, to a worthy cause.
How do I start?
You should probably have a think about the kind of volunteer work you would like to do, then have a look at what’s available. The Seek website is not just for job-seekers. It also runs a not-for-profit initiative aimed at matching organisations seeking volunteers with those who wish to donate their time and energy to a good cause.
If you are over 50 and have professional, business or executive skills you could also take a look at the Great Connections site, which is designed to link you up with organisations in need of volunteers with these skills.
What if I’m already a volunteer but I am not enjoying it?
Think of volunteering as an exchange. When you have a paid job you give your employer your time, energy and expertise in exchange for money. When you volunteer it’s the same – you need to get something in exchange for your services. That can simply mean enjoyment in what you are doing, a chance to spend time with friends, or in some cases a meal or accommodation.
If you are volunteering and you aren’t enjoying it, then you won’t be able to give them your best, and you won’t be getting much out of it. Maybe you need to consider trying something different. If you like working with people you might want to try teaching English to recent immigrants or help out at your local op-shop. If you’re more of an outdoors person you could consider getting involved with your local scout group, or incorporate some travel and spend time working on an organic farm (WOOFING) in exchange for meals and accommodation.
Volunteering Australia has a downloadable PDF called I want to volunteer so where should I go?, which is one of our favourite resources for new volunteers. You might also like look at our Volunteering and Centrelink article, to ensure your volunteer work won’t affect any Centrelink payments you are currently receiving.