What kind of volunteer are you?

In Uncategorized by Judith Wardell

Whenever retirement planning is mentioned, many peoples’ minds turn to volunteering. With the prospect of more time on your hands it seems only right to give back to your local community. You may be keen to indulge yourself in a lifelong passion. Volunteering may be a way to support a particular good cause that has helped you or your family in the past.

There is evidence to suggest that older volunteers are less likely to be depressed and are likely to live longer. Who wouldn’t want that?

So how do you become a volunteer?

The world of volunteering is changing. More and more of the public sector is being turned over to volunteer trusts to deliver challenging and complex services. Safeguarding and legal governance issues are frequently in our news.

So it is likely that you will have to go through a formal interview process and induction training to become a volunteer. No longer are charities desperate to take anyone who has a few hours to spare. The charity commission guidelines suggest that all charitable trusts have a fair and robust recruitment process and ongoing performance management processes. It’s more like the world of work and we all need a new approach.

The key question is “what kind of volunteer are you?”

Recently I saw this great idea in the window of a Shelter Scotland charity shop. The flow chart approach shows clearly how your skills and personality fit with particular roles. Organised, not very tidy but eagle eyed? Ideal as a Stock room treasure hunter!

I wonder what prompted them to take such action?  Poor feedback from customers about sales assistants who were painfully shy and didn’t speak? Or assistants who were too efficient and rather gruff? Uninspiring window displays put together by someone with no flair for style or sense of spacial awareness? High turnover of lively and chatty volunteers who found themselves closeted away in the store room most of the time?

How will you find your perfect role?

It is really important for you, and the organisation you volunteer for, that you understand what you have to offer. Recognising and valuing your skills is not always easy. After a long career I find that people are often locked into their job title and profession. They can’t  unpick or describe the skill set that they have developed.

In my Time of your life programme I use an exercise with a set of skill cards that is a fun way for people to identify what they are good at in a language that we can all understand. One of my clients realised that his attention to detail and ability to manipulate data was not something we all possess! He is now volunteering on the board of a local college. The papers are read thoroughly and proposals are scrutinised. I would only skim read the papers and be swayed by a good argument on the day. We are all different.

Will you enjoy it?

Most of all you need to know what you want to get out of volunteering. What do you love doing? What gives you a sense of purpose and being valued. There is no pay packet to compensate for a bad day at work so enjoyment is key!

The SDI profile that I use with my Time of your life clients shines a light on what motivates us and makes us feel good. I have a client who has run their own business for many years. She is driven by a challenge, making things happen and often battling against adversity. When she thought about a trustee role, the nature of the charity’s situation was really important. A trust board that appeared to be tightly controlled by regulations and governance issues was going to be very frustrating for her. A charity just starting up and busy fundraising looked to be much more fun and somewhere where she could really add value.

From my own experience as a trustee in a local charity, I know that is very difficult to give feedback to volunteers who are not behaving in the way that benefits the work of the team. It’s also hard for individuals to leave a volunteer post without feeling guilty about letting people down.

So it makes sense for both parties to make sure that we all ask this important question before generously giving our time

What kind of volunteer are you?


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