ARE YOU A VOLUNTEER?

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Articles for Volunteers

What is volunteering?

What is Volunteering? 

"Volunteering is the commitment of time and energy, for the benefit of society, local communities, individuals outside the immediate family, the environment or other causes. Voluntary activities are undertaken of a person’s own free will, without payment."

The White Paper Supporting Voluntary Activity (2000)

At Longford Volunteer Centre you can find out about volunteering and volunteer-involving organisations. You can call us on 087-2915367 to arrange an appointment or if you are passing drop-in and talk to a member of staff. Our services are free of charge!

Questions to ask yourself before volunteering

Often, there are so many volunteer opportunities to choose; finding the right one is difficult. Here are some helpful hints:

Pick an issue you really care about.
What are some community problems that concern you? If your choices include broad issues like health or environment you may want to narrow it down to specific parts of the problem (e.g., cancer or clean water). 

Ask your friends.
Over 65% of all volunteers who volunteer do so because they were asked.

Look at immediate needs.
Organisations submit immediate needs to the Volunteer Centre. Review their needs and get some ideas of the possibilities. Check out the online database. 

Think about your skills.
Are there skills that you have that you'd like to use in a volunteer opportunity?

Ask the Volunteer Centre for ideas.
Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Be Aware Of Your Needs:
One of the most important considerations you should think about before volunteering are your needs. 

Motivation:
What do you want to gain from volunteering? This answer varies from person to person and no answer is wrong. From a chance to make a difference, to using a skill or talent; from gaining professional experience to expressing your religious faith; from a chance to meet new people to achieving personal growth; gaining a more balanced life to giving something back. There are lots of reasons people volunteer. Be aware of yours. 

Age:
If you are under 16 you will need to let the volunteer co-ordinator know your age; some agencies have set age limits for their volunteers. 

Time:
For many people the biggest barrier to volunteering is a busy schedule. However, most of us really can fit volunteering into our lives. There is no minimum time requirement you can put in an hour a day, an hour a month, or an hour a year. Look for holes in your schedule or combine volunteering with other important activities like family time, or combine it with a hobby (e.g. photography, playing the piano, etc.},

Location:
Remember to pick a convenient location - sticking with a volunteer opportunity will be hard if getting there is part of the problem. 

Fun:
Remember that you should enjoy your volunteering experience. Pick something that you think will be fun, fulfilling and enjoyable. 


 

Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Volunteer

Whilst volunteering can be the habit of a life-time, the opportunity is there at any age. For many it has provided the chance to try something completely new. Taking part in your community can lead to a better understanding of your own abilities, some you never even knew you had! There are probably many more things to interest you than you had imagined possible. Not only in the areas of caring and companionship, practical support, information and advice services, transport, administration and fundraising but animal welfare, heritage and conservation.

Volunteering is the gift of time. Nevertheless it's important not to feel over stretched. The help you give should certainly not prevent you from pursuing any hobbies, or your family and social life.

As a volunteer you have responsibilities but you also have rights.

YOUR RIGHTS AS A VOLUNTEER

The assets you bring to an agency are considerable.

As a volunteer you have the right:

  • To be treated as a co-worker, not just free help.
  • To a suitable assignment--with consideration for personal preference, temperament, life experience, education and employment background.
  • To know as much about the organisation as possible-its policies, people and programs.
  • To training for the job and continuing education on the job-including training for greater responsibility.
  • To a role description.
  • To a place to work - a designated place that is conducive to work and worthy of the job to be done.
  • To new opportunities and a variety of experiences - through advancement or transfer, or through special assignment.
  • To be heard - to feel free to make suggestions, to have a part in planning.
  • To recognition - in the form of promotion and awards, through day to day expressions of appreciation and by being treated as a bona fide co-worker.
  • To sound guidance and direction.

YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS A VOLUNTEER

There are responsibilities of a volunteer that accompany your rights as a volunteer. All of those involved in the relationship must have respect for one another and a desire to cooperate in meeting designated needs.

Your responsibilities include:
  • If you have criticism about another person, convey it to your supervisor.
  • Be prompt and reliable in reporting for scheduled work. Keep accurate records of your hours  worked.
  • Notify your supervisor as early as possible if you are unable to work as scheduled.
  • Attend orientation and training sessions scheduled.
  • Be considerate, respect the ability of the staff, and work as a member of the team.
  • Carry out assignments in good spirit and seek the assistance of your supervisor in any situation requiring special guidance.
  • Accept the right of the agency to dismiss any volunteer for poor performance, including poor attendance.
  • Decline work that is not acceptable to you; maintain an open mind with regard to other people's standards and values.
  • Communicate personal limitations - acceptable out-of-pocket costs, transportation needs, time constraints, etc.
  • Provide feedback, suggestions, and recommendations to your supervisor and staff if these might increase the effectiveness of the program.
  • Give written notice if you cannot continue in your volunteer position or if you are requesting a leave of absence from the program.
  • Have the ability to work with a culturally diverse population of clients.
  • Respect current agency policies (i.e. Affirmative Action, Sexual Harassment, etc.

 

10 tips for a wise volunteering choice

1. Research the causes or issues important to you.
Look for a group that deals with issues about which you feel strongly. You might already be giving money to one of these organisations, and that might be a good place to begin your volunteer experience. If you can't find such an organisation, here's a challenging and intriguing thought: why not start one yourself? You can rally your neighbors to clean up that vacant lot on the corner, patrol the neighborhood, paint an elderly neighbor's house, take turns keeping an eye on the ailing person down the street, or form a group to advocate for a remedy to that dangerous intersection in your neighborhood. There is no end to the creative avenues for volunteering, just as there is no end to the need for volunteers. 

2. Consider the skills you have to offer.
If you enjoy outdoor work, have a knack for teaching, or just enjoy interacting with people, you may want to look for volunteer work, which would incorporate these aspects of your personality. Many positions require a volunteer who has previous familiarity with certain equipment, such as computers, or who possesses certain skills, such as ability in athletics or communications. For one of these positions you might decide to do something comparable to what you do on the job during your workday, or something that you already enjoy as a hobby. This sort of position allows you to jump right into the work without having to take training to prepare for the assignment.

3. Consider volunteering as a family.
Think about looking for a volunteer opportunity, which would be suitable for parents and children to do together, or, for husband and wife to take on as a team. When a family volunteers to work together at a nonprofit organisation, the experience can bring them closer together, teach young children the value of giving their time and effort, introduce everyone in the family to skills and experiences never before encountered, and give the entire family a shared experience as a wonderful family memory.

4. Would you like to learn something new?
Perhaps you would like to move into areas that will provide you with novelty or change. Then seek a volunteer opportunity involving training in an unfamiliar skill. Many nonprofits seek out people who are willing to learn, especially if the needs they serve are specialised or unique. Many nonprofits have a demonstrated need, but few volunteers skilled in what it takes to fill that need. Realize beforehand, however, that such work might require much more of an effort or a time commitment for training before the actual volunteer assignment begins. Make sure you are willing to commit to the necessary responsibilities.

5. Don't over-commit your schedule.
Make sure the volunteer hours you want to give fit into your hectic life, so that you don?t frustrate your family, exhaust yourself, shortchange the organisation you're trying to help or neglect your day job. Do you want a long-term assignment or something temporary? If you are unsure about your availability, or want to see how the work suits you before making an extensive commitment, see if the organisation will start you out on a limited number of hours until you get the feel of things. Better to start out slowly than to commit yourself to a schedule you can't or don't want to fulfill.

6. Nonprofits may have questions, too.
While most nonprofits are eager to find volunteer help, they have to be careful when accepting the services you offer. If you contact an organisation with an offer to donate your time, you may be asked to come in for an interview, fill out a volunteer application, describe your qualifications and your background?just as you would at an interview for a paying job. It is in the organisation?s interest to make certain you have the skills they need, that you are truly committed to doing the work, and that your interests match those of the nonprofit. Furthermore, in volunteer work involving children or other at-risk populations, there are legal ramifications for the organisation to consider.

7. I never thought of that!
Many community groups which are looking for volunteers may not have occurred to you. Most of us know that hospitals, libraries, and churches involve volunteers for a great deal of their work, but here are some volunteer opportunities which may not have crossed your mind:

  • day care centers
  • Neighborhood Watch
  •  public schools and colleges
  • halfway houses
  • community theatres
  • drug rehabilitation centers
  • retirement centres and homes for the elderly
  • Meals on Wheels
  • church or community-sponsored soup kitchens
  • museums, art galleries, and monuments
  • community choirs, bands and orchestras
  • prisons
  • neighbourhood parks
  • youth organisations, sports teams, and afterschool programs
  • shelters for battered women and children
  • historical restorations, battlefields and national parks

8. Give voice to your heart through your giving and volunteering!
Bring your heart and your sense of humor to your volunteer service, along with the enthusiastic spirit that is, in itself, a priceless gift. What you'll get back will be immeasurable! 

9. Virtual volunteering?
Yes, there is such a thing! If you have computer access and the necessary skills, some organisations now offer the opportunity to do volunteer work over the computer. This might take the form of giving free legal advice, typing a college term paper for a person with a disability, or simply keeping in contact with a shut-in who has e-mail. This sort of volunteering might be well-suited to you if you have limited time, no transportation, or a physical disability which precludes you from getting about freely. Virtual volunteering can also be a way for you to give time if you simply enjoy computers and want to employ your computer skills in your volunteer work.

10. Be a year-round volunteer!
We all tend to think more of those in need during the holidays; but volunteering is welcome and necessary all year. The need for compassion doesn?t stop with the New Year, and warm spring weather doesn?t fill empty stomachs or decrease the litter in the public parks. We all need to be aware that making our communities, our nation and our world better is a 365-day-a-year responsibility?and there is always something we could be doing to help!

 

Reasons for Young People to Volunteer

1. Gain Job Experience Volunteer experience looks great on a resume. Also, some of the work you do could lead to a job doing similar work.

2. Improve Your Health and Self-Esteem Volunteering to help others has been shown to reduce stress, give you hope, and boost your self-esteem.

3. Meet Real Community Needs Helping people learn to read, or get basic food, clothing, shelter or furniture makes a huge difference! Whether the project is planting a tree or tutoring children, the community will look and feel better.

4. Gain Entrance to College Colleges and universities today are looking for applicants who have more than high grades. They are looking for well-rounded people who have volunteered to make a difference in their communities.

5. Meet New People and Establish Friends, Connections, and References When you work alongside others, you really get to know them and become friends with them! Also, adults at organisations can connect you to great opportunities and provide you with a reference for a job or college.

6. Gain New Skills and Develop Talents Whether you enjoy working with computers, children, or seniors, any interest you have can be developed through volunteering.

7. Spread Positive Energy! Just like random acts of kindness, when you volunteer, your energy and efforts affect the whole community.

8. Make the World a Better Place If you see problems in your community that you feel need addressing, do something about them. By volunteering, you do make a difference and help make the world a better place.

9. Personal Growth By taking on new tasks you will learn more about both people and life.

10. It's Fun! Volunteering will bring laughter and smiles into your life.

For more information contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Source Energize Inc

Used with Permission

 

How we work with Volunteers


How we work with volunteers: A guide to the supports we provide to volunteers in Longford 

Longford Volunteer Centre acts as a broker between individuals who wish to volunteer and those organisations that involve volunteers.  We aim to promote the value of volunteering and increase the range and quality of volunteering in County Longford and Ireland.

Longford Volunteer Centre is part of a network of 21 volunteer centres and 7 Volunteer Information Services.  Longford Volunteer Centre is affiliated to Volunteer Ireland – the National Volunteer Development Agency and support body for volunteer centres and volunteer information services. Further information on the network can be found at www.volunteer.ie.  More information on volunteering and volunteering opportunities can be found on our web site: www.volunteerlongford.ie.

Who Will We Work With?

Longford Volunteer Centre provides a free placement service to anyone resident in County Longford wishing to find out more about the volunteering opportunities available. Accessing our service puts you under no obligation to choose a volunteering vacancy and your details can be removed whenever you wish.

What Services Do We Provide?

Access to a Database of Volunteering Opportunities

Longford Volunteer Centre has a growing database – I-VOL of over 200 organisations throughout Longford who are seeking volunteers to get involved in their work. Our database provides you with information on the organisation and their opportunities. These opportunities can be ongoing (daily, weekly or monthly) or ‘once-off’ (community events for example). For some of the once-off events, we will send out a text to everyone asking if they can help. We only expect you to contact us if you are interested. If you don’t want to receive these once-off texts please let us know and we can opt you out.

You do not have to register with us to look at the available opportunities but if you wish to register your interest in a vacancy you will need to be registered. You can do this directly via our website www.volunteerlongford.ie or fill in a registration form (available from the office).

Information & Support on the Vacancies in the

Database and on Volunteering in General

Longford Volunteer Centre can provide advice and

guidance, or access to information, on a range of issues related to the opportunities on our database and volunteering in general. We can answer questions you might have and we have booklets or other information that might also help you choose a volunteering opportunity. We can also provide you with information on what to do if you are in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance and you wish to volunteer. Resources are also available online, at our website www.volunteerlongford.ie.

There you will also find links to other web sites that might be useful to you.

How We Provide Our Service

Electronically

Because our database is electronic and held online, we do a lot of our communication via our website and email. We keep our website updated regularly and we circulate other information via email.

We send regular updates of new vacancies to all our active volunteers and we can also answer queries or seek information for you via email. If at any time you wish to be removed from our mailing list please let us know.

Telephone

Longford Volunteer Centre staff will be in touch with you by phone after you register to offer you an appointment to meet with a member of staff. We also use telephone calls to follow-up with volunteers to see how they are getting on in their volunteering role or to see if we can provide any additional supports.

We also encourage volunteers to call us if you have any questions or comments. If we are not available to take your call we will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Face - to – Face

Longford Volunteer Centre has its main office in

6 Earl Street, Longford. We can also arrange to meet you in a more convenient location if you are unable to come into the office.

A face-to-face meeting will include the following:

·         Registration online, if applicable. (Remember that you can say “Pass” for any question you do not wish to answer. The details on the form are for our records and to help us get to know you better.

·         Discussion of your interests, skills,  and time commitment, etc.,  We may chat about what voluntary work you have done before, or what skills you might like to gain from your volunteering experience.

·         Browsing the volunteer opportunity folder, discussing different roles, further exploring interests, etc as you know best what you are interested in. If you are not sure what areas you are interested in we can talk through some options with you.

·         Deciding on one or more opportunities that you are interested in.

Paper

Some volunteers do not have access to the internet or may not want to use email, so we keep those volunteers up-to-date by using phone and posting out regular updates. Let us know if you would prefer us to use this method.

The Placement Process

“Placement” is what we call the process whereby you find a volunteering role. It works like this:

You, the volunteer registers on our database. You can do this in a number of ways. Most people prefer to complete the form themselves online on our website www.volunteerlongford.ie.  If you click on the “register to volunteer” button this will direct you to our registration form. Once you have filled in all the relevant fields click the “register” button and your registration is complete. If you register online you will receive an automatic e-mail informing you that we will be in touch with you.

Others give us a call and we complete the registration over the phone. Some fill in our paper volunteer registration form and post or drop it into us, while others arrange to come in and see us and we do it with them.

Whatever way you choose to register we ask you to try and give us as much information as possible as this will help us help you better.

Registering Interest in an Opportunity

This is where you see one or more opportunities on the database that you are interested in. It is important that you read through the role description and are sure you want to pursue this.

To let us know that you are interested in a volunteer opportunity, you need to “Register” your interest in them. At this stage you are still not committing to a role, you are just showing an interest, but we ask you to limit this to just three opportunities at a time. You can go back and look at more if they don’t work out.

Contacting the Organisation

Once you have applied for a volunteering opportunity staff in the Volunteer Centre will pass on your details to the relevant organisation. You should hear from the organisation in a timely manner. If it is a case that you do not hear from the organisation let us know and we can follow up on your behalf.

Please note that if you choose a volunteering opportunity with an organisation who has published their direct contact details, this means the responsibility is on you as the volunteer to contact the organisation directly.

Each voluntary organisation has its own recruitment process, and you will need to follow that process to apply to be a volunteer with them. Our database should detail what that process is – it may just be an informal chat, you may need to fill in an application form, and for some you will need to undergo Garda Vetting. We can answer any questions you have.

Follow-Up

We regularly contact volunteers to keep track of your progress and to offer further assistance if this is needed. When we contact you we will be checking to see if you have started volunteering, or have decided not to do so, or if the organisation(s) have been in touch with you. If they have not and you want, we can follow up with those organisations on your behalf.

Regular Updates & Contact

We regularly send out texts to volunteers alerting you to new volunteering vacancies that have come in. We also post these on our Facebook page.

We also send out a quarterly newsletter to our volunteers containing upcoming volunteering opportunities. From time to time we may contact you in relation to volunteering opportunities that we feel might be of interest to you based on the information you have given us.

De-Registering

If at any stage you wish to be removed from our

database please let us know and we can de-activate

your file.

What Do We Expect From You?

That You Keep Us Updated

Please let us know how you are getting on, both during and after the placement process. This enables us to help you better, it can help us identify problems and it also lets us know how successful or otherwise the service is.

We will also seek feedback on our service once a year, so please help us out if you have a few minutes to spare and complete the questionnaire we circulate at that time. Your feedback will help us provide you with a better service.

If you have any photos, or feedback on how you’re doing we would love to see them. We can add them to our web site and/or Annual Report.

That You Keep Your Organisation Updated

We know how busy our lives can become at times, but it is important that the organisations you are interested in volunteering with are kept up to date. If you are unable to follow up with a role for a few weeks, or decide after speaking to the organisation that you are no longer interested, please let them know, or let us know and we can pass the information on.

Recording of Information

In addition to the information you provide on registration, our database allows us to record notes on the contact we have with you. This will generally include the date of the conversation and any important information discussed. We will also record the opportunities you are interested in, when you have started volunteering and the estimated number of hours you will be volunteering.

You are free to request a copy of any information we hold on you. Please ask us, or request to see our Data Protection policy and procedure for further information.

Refusal of Service

Under certain circumstances Longford Volunteer Centre may refuse to accept a registration, or refuse to place volunteers with an organisation. This may be due to inappropriate or unsafe behaviour, for example. For a full explanation contact the Co-ordinator.

Appealing This Decision

Should you disagree with the Co-ordinator’s decision to suspend our service to you, please write to the Chair of Longford Volunteer Centre steering group, at the address below, outlining your reasons.

Your appeal will be considered by the steering group.

Compliments and Complaints

Longford Volunteer Centre welcomes all feedback, both positive and negative as it allows us to deliver a better service to the community. Any comments should be addressed to the Co-ordinator at 6 Earl Street, Longford.

Opening times

Longford Volunteer Centre is open daily 9am to 5 pm (lunch 1-2). Our contact details are as follows:

Longford Volunteer Centre

6 Earl Street, Longford

087-2915367/087-7594770

w: www.volunteerlongford.ie

Note: Longford Volunteer Centre is project managed by Longford Community Resources Ltd. and funded by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Longford Volunteer Centre is part of a wider network of volunteer centres and Volunteer Information Services. We are affiliated to Volunteer Irealnd – the National Volunteer Development Agency and support body for VCs and VISs. Further information on the network can be found at www.volunteer.ie

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