Welcome to the Northeaster’s 26th annual Heartbeat Northeast: Volunteers edition. We’ll fill you in on volunteers who were recently honored by their neighborhood organization, volunteers who take hot meals to folks who have mobility limitations, and more.
And, of course, it just wouldn’t be April without a few snowstorms and our updated list of dos and don’ts for volunteers.
First, some of the dos...the characteristics we like to see in community volunteers.
Volun-steering: Being the person who makes sure volunteers have reliable transportation to and from their work places. This is especially important for very young volunteers who might be capable and enthusiastic, but are either too young to drive or lack reliable access to a vehicle. Your help can ensure that those young people feel the rewards of volunteering, and grow up to be enthusiastic adult volunteers.
Volun-rearing: As parents and as adult role models, setting a strong example of community volunteering for the children who look up to you.
Vacuum-teering: Even the most enthusiastic volunteers can grow weary at cleanup time; still it’s important to leave a volunteer work place at least as nice as you found it; preferably nicer.
Fallon-teering: Good humor goes a long way in making volunteer activities fun and memorable. Even those who provide bad humor deserve a pat on the back for trying.
Far-flung-teering: Volunteering can take you places you’ve never been. Unfamiliar assignments might seem scary, but the benefits of conquering those fears and mastering new skills are enormous.
Volun-training: Finding and encouraging good candidates for the abovementioned far-flung-teering, and providing what they need to develop their new abilities.
Volun-testing: If you’ve ever seriously pondered, "I wonder what it would be like to work at...," you can probably find a volunteer activity that places you close to people who are doing what you’re pondering, without the expense of specialized training or the risk of giving up your day job.
Volun-trailing: New volunteers often need an extra "push" to feel wanted and appreciated. Letting the newbie know that you’re impressed, and that you’ve "got their back" if they run into trouble, can help turn a one-time volunteer into a regular.
And, some of the don’ts...characteristics that volunteers should watch out for, and avoid if at all possible:
Volun-timing: Beware of the volunteer who tries to impress you with how many hours he or she has donated to the cause. Enthusiasm for the mission, and for what has been accomplished, is a far better indicator of a valuable volunteer.
Volun-topping: Beware of the volunteer who always claims to be one or two steps better (or faster, or more dedicated) than others. In most volunteer endeavors, it’s a team effort, not a contest.
Velcro-teering: Sticking to a volunteer activity that is clearly not a good fit. It happens, and when it does, it’s important to move on in a polite, professional manner. Sticking around in such a situation, however noble it might appear, often does more harm than good.
Felon-teering: The dangerous situation in which volunteers decide their contributions are so enormous that the rules that apply to others don’t apply to them. It can be as minor as "cutting corners," or it can lead to something as major as embezzlement. If you don’t like the rules, try to get them changed, openly and respectfully. If that fails, see "velcro-teering" above.
Fallen-teering: Allowing a single bad experience to turn you off to volunteering. Opportunities are so numerous and varied that a good volunteer experience is there for the taking. A bad experience is almost always a learning experience. Taking that new knowledge to a new opportunity will help ensure a better outcome.
Volun-veering: Pursuing one’s personal agenda to the extent that it threatens to throw a volunteer activity off course.
Volun-fearing: Giving in to the jitters that accompany any new experience. Give that volunteer opportunity a try, and if it doesn’t work out, try something else. Soon enough, you’ll be fearlessly moving on to bigger and better assignments (see Far-flung-teering above).
And finally, our wish for you: Happy, healthy, productive volunteering that makes the world a better place.