Volunteering: the Good, the Bad, the Unknown

Volunteering and staying active in your community is personally important to me.  The community you live in something that you can contribute to by simply volunteering. Giving back and helping out my community has been a regular part of my life since high school. The book says, “the fact that people may be motivated by a combination of altruism or personal needs does not diminish the value of their efforts or make them less admirable (Worth, 2014, pg. 222). I simply started to do it because it was required, then because it felt good and now I do it because (yes because it feels good) but also because it helps me better understand the community I am living in.

Initially, I found out where to volunteer through teachers or through googling. Now, I volunteer at places that’s mission is in line with mine and I find through trial and error. Sometimes, I like a larger organization but then their local branch is disconnected or I dislike the website for on smaller organization but I decide to volunteer and they completely blow me away. Having a clear marketing plan and communication with the public is crucial for an organization, especially a non-profit. In this post, I am going to talk about some organizations I have or might volunteer for.

The first organization that I am going to talk about is The Salvation Army. I became familiar with this organization when I was in a Brownie (not even a Girl Scout) in kindergarten. We rang the bell at Christmas time to raise money. So I’ve been familiar with The Salvation Army for a while so I decide to push myself and learn more about The Salvation Army. Their mission statement is, “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian

Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination”.  The book says, “Mission is the psychological and emotional logic that drives an organization” (Worth, 2014, pg. 164). Their mission is heavily religious but they are excepting and loving folks.

How do I know this? Well I was off one Friday and decide to volunteer on the Soup Wagon. This is essentially a food truck that is parked under the Jefferson Street Bridge every Friday at 6pm.  This truck produces hundreds of meals each Friday providing a much need meal for people. The Soup Wagon sometimes is even able to provide clothes and other essentials to folks on the street.

The volunteer description was vague at best. I was still interested so I emailed the one listed on the website. She got back to me promptly and attached a few documents of information. These documents clearly defined what I would be doing which was just passing out food. Eventually, I helped plate and box some of the food. There was no formal orientation session for the Soup Wagon. The volunteer leader simply attached all the information that I would need. In a way, I was informally oriented. One of the topics that was covered was how to act. We were supposed to be modest in our dress and in our personality. We were encouraged to show love and be kind but be sympathetic and conscience of how we were communicating. Overall, I would totally do the Soup Wagon again.

Something that I would do to make this experience more appeal was allow us to prep some of the food or have a longer volunteer experience than 5:30 – 7:30. This will allow for more time for people to invest. I would also have liked for a longer time to interact with the other volunteers or even the lead volunteer. This would have lead me to ask question and therefore I would have left more informed. If my experience was longer, I would also have had more insight into the daily operations of this sector of the non-profit. The mission, however, was on my mind throughout volunteering. This mission told me why this organization stands for what they do but volunteering helped me fully understand how the mission really drives what this organization does.

Finally, there were tones of policies and procedures in place on how The Salvation Army managed my volunteer experience. The book says, “not having such policies for volunteers might imply that they are not as essential as staff and may set the stage for misunderstandings, conflict between volunteers and staff members, or legal problems” (Worth, 2014, pg. 226). They told me what to wear, how to act and what to do. They hold me how they like things done and basically that their mission is the number one policy. But overall, a volunteer must not forget why they are volunteering and that the people they are helping are at the end of the day human.

The next organization that I have been familiar with my whole life is the Second Harvest Food Bank. I remember collecting canned goods and setting up food drives for this organization in elementary, middle and high school. This organization’s mission is to, “feed hungry people and work to solve hunger issues in our community”. I am interest in cold food sorting for Second Harvest. This opportunity is ongoing and located at 331 Great Circle Road Nashville, TN 37228. The time I would interested in would be Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The description of this volunteer opportunity would be that you sort and box non-perishable food donations, or assembling boxes for school programs or sort perishable food donations. The person to contact about this opportunity is clearly identified. There would be a 30-minute orientation session before volunteering. The only requirements for this volunteer opportunity would be that you are at least 12 years old and that you wear closed-toed shoes and clothes appropriate to work in.

After collecting all this information, I still want to volunteer. I think this volunteer posting was very upfront about what you are going to be doing and that it will attract the right and invested volunteers. To make this program more approachable to outsiders, there should be a stronger media presence. This would not only make them more accessible but will also allow people to gain information on their own time and at their own pace. Without volunteers to do this sorting then Second Harvest would not be able to provide services and meet its missions goals. This volunteer opportunity will help me better understand the work of the organization and will allow me to see the daily operations of the nonprofit. This opportunity will show me exactly how much Second Harvest gives back to the community and exactly what people desperately need. This opportunity will also show me crucial parts of how the organization operates and how the policies and procedures they have in place are crucial to the success of the whole organizations. Some of these policies being what type of canned goods they can accept, the age minimum of volunteers and so forth.

One organization I was not familiar with was Hands on Nashville. This organization is based in Nashville and its mission is to “meet community needs through volunteerism”. The opportunity I would be interested in would be the Urban Farm: Preparation and Maintenance. This is located at the Urban Farm which is located near the Mill Creek. This opportunity is an on-going opportunity that happens mostly on Friday mornings. The description of this opportunity would be that you are helping plant and harvest plants as the farm needs it, you will help weed and water and overall tending to the garden. There is a point of contact easily and quickly identified and there is no before the day orientation but a 30 minute orientation day of. The only requirements are that you wear sturdy closed-toed shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.

This volunteer opportunity sounds like so much fun to me! I love gardening and community involvement in growing food. The only way I would improve this volunteer opportunity is that they get local farms and restaurants involved. The farmers and chefs could lead informative and interactive classes that would appeal to everyone. This volunteer also holds the farm accountable since they are working on it. The book says, “to be accountable essentially means being required to answer, to take responsibility, for one’s actions” (Worth, 2014, pg. 127). This volunteer opportunity extends Hands on Nashville’s ability to meet the community needs because the volunteers would be growing food and donating that food to the community. This volunteer opportunity helped me see Hands on Nashville’s mission statement’s impact on the community. The only policy that should be in place is that you have fun and do not get stressed out. This volunteer opportunity does not help me better understand the daily operations of Hands on Nashville. Overall, this is so far the most exciting volunteer opportunity that I have come across!

Another organization that I was not familiar with is the Safe Haven Family Shelter. This organization’s mission is to, “lead our community’s efforts to house, support, empower and advocate for families experiencing homelessness”. The opportunity that I want to volunteer for is the children’s program. This is an opportunity that is ongoing and engages children in activities on weekday from 6:30pm – 8:30pm. However, there is no location posted. There is a person clearly identified to contact. There is an extensive orientation session before volunteering since you are working with children. There is an age requirement of 18 years old.

After all this being said, I would love to volunteer here but I do not know if I have enough time to invest in this organization. I would recommend this organization and program to someone who is looking for a long term volunteer gig. This opportunity is already quite informative and appealing. This volunteer opportunity is not for the volunteer but for the children so the volunteer should focus on making the time with the children fun and appealing to them. The volunteer opportunity extends Safe Haven’s mission statement because most of these children in this program are homeless or on the brink of being homeless. This program helps them have a place to go and have a since of community and support. This program is a great example of what Safe Haven stands for and participating in it will help anyone better understand the work of the organization. There are already extensive policies and procedures in place because you are working with children so I would not add anymore. This volunteer opportunity does give someone insight into the daily operations of the nonprofit because you are seeing the volunteers live out the mission of the organization every day and use all the skills of the nonprofit.

Overall, every volunteer opportunity had some sort of formal or informal orientation session. The organization might have different mission statements but they all seem to embody and live out their mission statements. These organizations have all have a great balance of supporting on-going programs that support their daily operations. These organizations are big picture organization that focus on making sure they meet their goals while also impacting their community. Also all these organizations treat their volunteers with respect because they know that people are more inclined to believe what they hear from other individuals than what they read in the newspaper or hear on television (Worth, 2014, pg. 252). So they all treat their volunteer right so they get a good review from them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources

Worth, M. J. (2014). Nonprofit Management: Principles and Practice (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

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