Robyn and Annka

Volunteering for a charity can be both rewarding and challenging.

Rewarding because it allows you to contribute to a worthwhile cause in a meaningful way, you get to meet inspiring and motivated people, and you have the opportunity to both apply and extend your skillset.

Challenging because there is often little time to bring you up-to-speed with the organisation and all it encompasses, you will often be thrown in the ‘deep end’ with little instruction and be working outside your comfort zone, and you may not get direct interaction with those people who are benefiting from the charity’s work.

Here are 5 essentials of charity volunteering to help you along the way.

1. Determine your skillset

Everyone has their own unique skillset. Think about the paid job you do or used to do and the skills you used in that role and use that as a starting point. You will probably find that any charity (and Daya Trust!) could do with those types of skills in their organisation.

Chances are the charity won’t have time to design a set job description and slot you into the perfect role. Instead the charity is probably eager for someone to come on-board, identify where they can make the most contribution, and then take that area over and run it competently (including bringing your own volunteers on-board to assist in your area).

If you have financial skills then volunteer as a treasurer, but if you’re a bubbly people-gatherer, then there are usually more appropriate roles for you in a charity than managing the finances like generating supporters or managing volunteers.

If you already spend a significant amount of time on Facebook or Twitter, then you can volunteer to run the charity’s social media sites. If you’re super organised and fantastic with administration, then volunteer to manage the charity’s emails or offer to be the central contact person.

Rochelle Stewart-Allen, founder of Daya Trust says “People all the time say they want to help us and ask how can they can help. Although I appreciate their offers, realistically I’m so busy running the day-to-day side of the charity that I have very limited time to be recruiting or managing volunteers. It really helps when volunteers already know what skills they can offer and their areas of interest, and after some discussion with us, they can tell us where they see themselves fitting.”

Volunteering for Daya Trust

2. Find your niche

Speak with others already working for the charity about where the gaps are. Chances are they can tell you straight away but they just haven’t had time to define it.

Most small charities are fully run by volunteers and are busy focussing on the work they’re trying to achieve. This leaves little time for recruiting and managing volunteers, however as volunteers are the lifeblood of any charity, they are always gratefully received.

Get to know the charity you are keen to work for. Read their website, attend their events, meet their staff. If you still can’t identify your niche, then offer to do something simple while you learn more about their needs – for example, help out at an event.

One of the best things you can offer is to be an advocate for the charity – share their story, generate supporters, bring people to their events.

Work hard to find your niche and then take ownership of what you’ve been assigned.

3. Recognise volunteering is hard work

Often voluntary work sounds glamorous and rewarding. You start out feeling passionate about the cause and are enthusiastic to make a contribution. However, in reality, volunteering can be difficult with limited rewards.

If you are working with an overseas charity and can’t directly meet the people you are supporting, you may find that frustrating. Other needs seem to crowd out the time you have set aside to do your charity work, whether it’s your job, your family or social events. There is often little supervision or consultation as the people running the charity are usually working in paid full-time jobs and don’t have an office you can work from. You will be thrown a task with little explanation and you will be expected to just get on and do it with little support.

The key is to find what motivates you to be and stay involved.

Girls with Irene

4. Find your own personal motivation

As a volunteer, your motivation to help out needs to be based around recognising you are part of a greater whole, and playing your part is both valuable and necessary, however so much may be going on that people forget to mention that to you!

It’s important that you find your own rewards to keep you motivated. Incentives can be quite different when you aren’t receiving a pay-packet at the end of the week.

It can be very common for people to feel passionate about the cause, quickly put up their hand to help out, and then just as quickly drop off because the work doesn’t meet their expectations or there’s no-one alongside you keeping you going. This can be frustrating for both you and the charity.

Everybody who works for a charity has their own motivations for doing so. It’s worthwhile to take time out at the beginning, before you put your hand up to help out, and identify what will keep you motivated. If no-one’s patting you on the back and you’re not getting paid, what will keep you engaged?

Rochelle says “At the end of the day, my charity work has been profoundly rewarding to me both personally and professionally. Those rewards might just look a little different than a traditional job, but they have enriched my life in a much deeper way. I have had the opportunity to meet an incredibly diverse range of inspiring people, I’ve been able to personally visit the people I’ve worked with in India, and I’m working on something that is bigger than myself. These are all intangible rewards which mean more to me than a salary.”

5. Use volunteering to extend your skillset

The opportunity to identify and grow your skillset in volunteering for a charity is profound. You will be able to literally learn on-the-go, push your boundaries, and discover skills you didn’t even know you had. You will often be given the authority to design something from scratch and see it through to delivery. Volunteering is a great chance to build and extend your skillset which can then be carried over to your day-job. You can put up your hand for the diverse range of roles available in a charity and succeed in areas you had only dreamt of!

Rochelle says “If there’s a skill you’ve always wanted to develop, yet never had the opportunity to do, then volunteering for a charity can be the perfect opportunity to step up. For me personally, my work with Daya Trust has allowed me the chance to really take charge and learn to lead an organisation and all the complexity that brings. This is something I had never had the opportunity to do before. It’s also taught me incredible resilience and how to keep going regardless of circumstances which is a great life-skill to have.”

Volunteering for Daya Trust

Volunteering with Daya Trust

People often ask us at Daya Trust how they can help. We respond that there are many ways you can assist our work and there is not necessarily a hard-and-fast-rule on the types of roles we can offer you. People then seem a little lost about how they can contribute!

What we ask, is that you talk to us about your areas of interest and your skillset. Ask us where the gaps are in the resources we have, then find your niche and make an offer about where you see yourself fitting. Our charity is fully run by volunteers so there are always needs you can fill.

Rochelle says “For time poor people, it’s not always about giving money (although that helps us a lot!). Offers of support around brainstorming or assisting with planning or simply taking us out for coffee for some moral support is a great help.”

“Working for a small charity takes an immense amount of work, and the majority of us work full-time. There’s nothing better than taking some time out with someone who can offer support, help talk through ideas, and even better, generate innovative solutions to help us move forward. Helping a small charity is often less complicated than people think.”

For people who are time-poor but resource-rich, donating money can be a quick and meaningful way to contribute. At Daya Trust we offer opportunities to make regular or one-off donations to our work in India either via Paypal or directly into our bank account on our Donation page. We regularly send out newsletters and run Facebook and Twitter pages where you can keep up-to-date with our latest news and see where your resources are contributing.

Keen to be involved in Daya Trust? Check out our ‘Join Us’ page for more information or email us at info@dayatrust.com.