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5 Key Action Steps to Help You Enjoy Volunteering

Posted in Articles

This is a guest article by Karl E. Burgher.

Volunteering can be a whole lot like work sometimes, but who says it can’t be enjoyable most of the time? In fact, volunteering is a wonderful way of making valuable contributions to society while also contributing to your own enjoyment and well-being. As we mention in an earlier blog (“8 Ways Volunteering Helps Volunteers”) and discuss in our book Volunteering, we believe that volunteering is as much about the volunteer as it is about those being helped by the volunteer individual or group. So, how do we make sure we enjoy ourselves the majority of the time? We do that by keeping these 5 actions in mind:


  • Decide to have fun!
  • Make a brief plan.
  • Follow your plan, change your plan.
  • Learn everything you can all the time!
  • Celebrate the big and small.


This may seem a bit Pollyanna-like, but in practice, each of these needs to be up front and present in our minds, all the time. Let us take a closer look at each of these steps.

First, choose to have fun and enjoy yourself. Find an organization that is a good fit for you. If what you do does not bring you joy, why do it? Volunteering can sometimes be hard work, but it can also be very enjoyable. You meet new people, learn new skills, and, best of all, help others! If you consciously decide to have a positive attitude, your volunteering experience will be much more rewarding. The choice is up to you!

Second, make a plan. This could be as simple as a few notes scrawled on scratch paper or a full-blown essay. Keep it as clear as possible. You should be able to concisely describe your plan to others and convey why your project/role is important. Request feedback from other people and incorporate this information into your notes. Having a plan will help keep you on track and allow you to assess your accomplishments. Seeing that you are making progress is always a good source of encouragement.

Third, implement your plan. It sounds obvious, but often it is not. Even if your details are not fully defined or if you are unsure where some aspects of your project are headed, implement the plan anyway—begin. Do not worry if things do not work out exactly as you had imagined they would. You may need to modify your objectives, your timeline, or other features of your plan. It is normal, and necessary, to adjust along the way. This will keep you moving forward toward success. New work, a new job, a new volunteering experience—these can be just like learning how to hit a ball. So how do you learn to hit that ball? You take a swing. It is just that simple. First, know and believe that you are going to hit it well, and if you miss, know that missing is learning, not failure. We find so often that folks just do not begin, for fear of missing. Remember that missing a bit is just okay at the start of anything new.

Fourth, learn all you can about the organization you have chosen to be a part of, and never stop learning. Become the historian, perhaps. Talk to others within the organization, read press articles about it, consult its website and annual reports, Google it. Find out what people do within the organization and what they like about it. Talk with the groups that your organization serves. The wider educational net you cast for yourself, the more you will know and the better equipped you will be to volunteer and to answer questions people ask you about the organization. Your knowledge and interest may also lead to leadership opportunities for you.

And fifth, celebrate! Celebrate small and large accomplishments. Celebrate your own goals achieved as well as those of your fellow volunteers. But more importantly, celebrate each other—your passions, your diversity, your cultures, and your humanity. Celebration is a crucial component of a full and positive volunteer experience. Celebration will keep you moving forward toward a successful finish. It will give you the motivation to overcome the next hurdles and to push past the next goal. In short, celebration will contribute to sustaining your organization so that it can thrive for years to come.


Remember, the work you do is important and your organizations need you! If you are happy where you are volunteering, you will be more likely to stay, which means that you will be able to help more people. Do your part to maintain a positive environment for yourself and others. For more ideas on improving your volunteering experience, please check out our free downloadable e-book, Volunteering or our previous blog post, “Top 10 Ways to Become a Better Volunteer.” Now get out and begin!