The last two entries of this diary described some of the basic steps that I needed to take in order to find a volunteer opportunity that would not only allow me to contribute to the community but also help me develop skills and gain experience for my future career. This time, however, I want to discuss a very interesting and pro-active approach to finding a volunteer position: making one yourself!
DIARY OF A VOLUNTEER
My supervisor recently showed me a little blue folder that contained one of the workshops by Volunteer Vancouver called “The Search for Skilled Volunteering: Finding the Right Role”. These six or seven pages were a guide that helped me to learn two things: a new approach to volunteering and how to create my own volunteer position.
Creating my own volunteer position sounded intriguing and it also opened a variety of possibilities that could help me with my volunteer search. If I was able to develop a project or a task that could add value to their organization without being a drain on their time or resources, I may be able to create my own volunteer position.
The first step to creating my own volunteer opportunity was to identify what I wanted to learn and where I wanted to do it. I wanted to volunteer with an internationally-focused organization where I could contribute my knowledge and experience in economic development and research, while also learning some computer skills for marketing and promotions and improving my leadership skills.
In my work as Volunteer Services and Service Learning Assistant, I had come across Global Agents for Change, an organization created by a group of SFU alumni. To be able to create my own volunteer position I needed to know enough about them to be able to come up with a project proposal that they couldn’t refuse. A good method is to contact the person at the organization most closely related to my interests and ask them questions about what they do, why they do it, and obviously, if they are looking for help with any projects or activities. It is valuable to not only to talk to the staff at the organization, but to find someone who volunteers for them and ask the same type of questions.
Once I knew a little bit more about the organization, I was able to sit down and pair what I wanted from the position with the needs of the organization. In this way I could create a project where I could contribute what I already knew, learn new skills, gain experience, and help the organization. The next step was to organize the project that I had in mind and write it down in a clear and structured proposal. My proposed project revolved around helping promote the “Riding to Break the Cycle” event to SFU students in order to raise awareness and attract volunteers. My draft proposal had the following elements:
Basic Information: My name, the organization’s name, the date
Project Proposal Information:
Project goal (the overall purpose of my proposed project)
Brief description (a few more details about what I want to do)
Key benefits (what I can offer them; why my project is worthwhile)
Potential challenges (what might be some risks and how I can overcome them so I can show them I’ve thought a lot about the project)
Why this project is right for the organization? (further reasons why I and my project are valuable to them)
Deliverables (tangible outcomes that they should expect from me and my project)
Proposed timeline (start and end date, any major deadlines)
This proposal allowed me to develop each part of the project in order to explain the benefits that I could offer. The next step was to send it to the appropriate person at the organization, along with my resume, and ask for their feedback. This project fit my goals of developing my leadership skills and gaining experience in marketing and design while contributing to an organization that is helping communities in developing nations to improve their lives through micro-credit.
I am very glad to have learned so much during these three months and I am very glad that this experience has helped me to grow as a professional and as a world-citizen.