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There's Nothing Like Being a Volunteer for New Insights

I volunteer for a number of organizations and find it very rewarding.  It's also given me a chance to see first hand how different organizations engage volunteers. When I speak to groups, I'll often ask the question, "Who's had a bad experience as a volunteer?" Almost everyone will nod that they have had their share of challenges. My own recent volunteer experiences highlight the difference in how volunteers are handled. In one situation, I volunteered with a staffer as my supervisor in an office environment. She'd already screened me and I was ready to give it my all. My first assignment was to put information into a spread sheet that she said was a waste of time to do but that her boss needed done. To put it mildly, it didn't feel like I was being valued very much, but I did it anyway. In addition there were too many volunteers scheduled, so we volunteers didn't have enough to do. I then decided to try volunteering for a political campaign. My "boss" was a leader volunteer and it was a positive and meaningful experience because I was put to work on a number of projects where I could see that my efforts mattered.  I often have thought of myself as one who doesn't need much acknowledgement or expressions of appreciation.  I must say, it felt good to be appreciated and recognized - even in small ways.  I think it would be beneficial for all nonprofits to encourage their own employees get out and volunteer on company time for another organization - at least a few times a year. We all lead busy lives, but there is no substitute for feeling the volunteer experience so we can do better ourselves with volunteers.

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