Cindy Goehring is Northeast Regional Coordinator for Volunteers of America, Dakotas.
The phone rings. “Volunteers of America, how may I help you?”
“My fence needs painting," the caller says. "Send someone over to paint it as soon as you can!”
My polite reply, “I’m sorry to hear you have a worn fence, but that’s not exactly what we do here.”
Volunteers of America in Aberdeen is actually a group of trained human service professionals working — for a wage — to help alleviate problems that arise from families struck by poverty, crisis, or other unfortunate life circumstances. We don’t blame people for being perplexed by our name. Some people even ask why we don’t change it, but I suppose after having a name for more than a century, it becomes enduring.
Now that we have that cleared up, I want to talk about how we do use volunteers in our day-to-day work and how very rewarding it can be to volunteer your time in a nonprofit organization like Volunteers of America.
People who do work in nonprofits are united by a particular cause, not just making money or selling a product. It is often a misconception that people who work for nonprofits work for lower salaries, but it is entirely accurate to say that the salary has very little to do with why they are working. You should also be aware that the work in a nonprofit agency is often very high-paced. You will find that in many cases the amount of work to do is significantly greater than the amount of time available. Passion for youth services, helping families in crisis, ending hunger and homelessness: These are all things that nonprofit workers are interested in and what drives them to go to work each day.
Volunteer opportunities are almost always available in a sector that is funded by grants and government dollars that are not always the most predictable and often are so restricted they rarely cover all of the necessary activities that are vital to running a helpful program. Although volunteers may find themselves doing filing, copying and cleaning, they can also expect to be exposed to staff members and programs at all levels of the organization. Most nonprofits have a family atmosphere where everyone’s role is considered important. The paid staff are well aware of how valuable a volunteer is and how difficult it would be to do their job without the help of these volunteers.
This means that if you were to become a volunteer and shared a similar passion, people would very likely want to introduce you to all of the things that their organization has to offer. You might be invited to more meetings and events and be included in more projects than you would in another industry. The ability to show initiative and to bring your own ideas to the table is generally welcomed.
Remember, when you join a nonprofit team, everyone’s role and opinion is valued regardless of
hierarchy or salary. This is all part of the nonprofit world, and when you join one these teams, you will do some of the most rewarding work of your life!
For more information, email email@example.com or call 605-262-1007.