Your first day of volunteering is here! You’ll meet new people, learn more about your responsibilities, understand more about the culture of your organization, and discover the doors that volunteering can open. So how you do you best prepare for the big day?
Whether you’re a tutor, a technician, a copywriter, or a manager, every volunteer needs the basic prep kit: ways to cope with unexpected challenges and trials during busy days. Every prep kit varies depending on roles and responsibilities, but we’ve compiled some common sense tools you’ll need to be an all-star volunteer.
1. LAPTOP OR TABLET:
Most agencies will have Wi-Fi or access to a hotspot, but actual work computers may be in limited supply. Some corporate workplaces frown upon using personal computers for business, but most volunteer-driven organizations will be happy to provide you with an outlet and their Wi-Fi password. Bringing your own technology can let you coordinate with other volunteers and team members easily.
2. OFFICE SUPPLIES:
Look around your desk at work. How many office supplies – pens, paper, scissors, tape rolls – do you have lying around? Office supplies have a habit of disappearing so keep your own stash of pens, paper, and general office supplies handy, because they’ll be put to good use. Whether you’re proofreading documents or cutting paper to create a poster, having a ready stash will turn you into an agency star once everybody knows they can rely on you.
3. LIGHT SNACK OR LUNCH:
There’s no point in volunteering on an empty stomach! Volunteers from the corporate world can be used to in-house cafeterias or even catered lunches. Many agencies often rely on off-site eateries for meals. If you’re too busy to bring lunch from home, toss a light snack in your bag or ask the agency employees about nearby favorites or if there’s a takeout order pool.
4. POST-IT NOTES:
Physical or virtual, you never appreciate post-it notes like you will as a volunteer at a busy agency. Sometimes your supervisor will rush in and ask you to write down a memo for later, or you may just need to scribble down a lengthy network password. You might prefer the original yellow notes or you may use a free app like Evernote. Just be sure to have some means of quick-note taking that you can easily access later. When you wear as many hats as you do as a volunteer, you will learn to rely on them.
5. A CALENDAR:
Whether you prefer hanging a physical calendar on your cubicle wall or maintaining Google Calendar, always keep a calendar. On a daily basis agencies will have schedules, events, meetings, and conferences of all kinds. Not only will you be able to map out your responsibilities by priority once you define when everything is, but you’ll also be able to pitch ideas in advance of big events. When agency directors have more time to plan they are more likely to take your ideas into consideration.
6. CHANGE OF CLOTHES:
This one is for volunteers with physical labor responsibilities or in a role where you see yourself getting messy, such as leading a group of kids in a painting activity with one of our childhood education agencies. Even if you just leave a fresh set of clothes in your car, you’ll appreciate not having to walk around covered in paint, dust, or whatever accumulates during the day.
This probably seems like the silliest and most impractical item on this list. Who has time for dental care during busy volunteer hours? However, if you’re looking for a great recommendation or hoping for a chance at a paying gig with the agency, presentation is everything so floss and other personal hygiene items will come in handy.
8. AN OPEN MIND:
Above all else, this is the most important. The agency you’re working with wants you to have a positive experience as much as you do. As you go through your day don’t be afraid to talk to your supervisor and other agency workers. Situations and needs can change very quickly during the day so try to go with the flow and enjoy!
The contents of your volunteer survival kit will depend heavily on what types of responsibilities you have and what your schedule is like, but these are the essentials that you’ll need in just about every role. If we missed anything, feel free to leave a note in the comments for prospective volunteers.