Wednesday, September 08, 2004

So you Want to Volunteer With a NonProfit

There are a lot of reasons to get involved with a nonprofit organization.

One reason may be because you have some free time, and want to find a way to spend it in a productive manner. There are many organizations that could use a hand, and many opportunities looking for people to fill them. A group like Volunteer Match can help you find an internship, or post as an educator, mentor, or other position.

The range of choices may surprise you. A search in my area revealed a need for a person to help with Special Olympics, a music/choral group leader, a court appointed special advocate, a database application developer for a museum, a museum guide, a humane cat trapper, a dog walker, a literacy volunteer teaching adults, a park ranger intern, a member of a historic sewing group, and many more.

Another reason may be because you have nothing else to do. I remember when a friend had left his job, and was wandering directionless. I saw a sign for a group that was rescuing and rehabilitating wild birds nearby, and convinced him that it might be something fun to do, and that I would join with him. He got involved with them, and spent some serious time helping to do construction jobs around their facilities, care for sick and injured birds, and travel to places near and far to help rescue birds from oil spills. He met his future wife while volunteering there. It seemed in some ways that the opportunity helped rescue him.

A different reason might be that you have no choice. Well, you do have a choice, but helping others may just be the thing that helps you. An ex-neighbor knocked on my door a couple of months back. He asked me for some advice with the legal system. He had been caught driving without a license -- for the third time. His court date was in about a month. It's a charge that often carries with it some prison time. He asked me what he should do. I told him that the best thing he could do was to go to some place like the Boys club, or somewhere else, and volunteer. Find something that a judge could look at and say to him or herself that "here is someone who is trying to do something for someone else. Someone who just might have seen the errors of his ways." I didn't want to get all preachy, and I could tell by the incredulous look on his face that it wasn't the advice that he expected.

I don't know if he took my advice. I hope that he did.

If you do consider volunteering, there are some things that you should keep in mind. I came across an excellent online resource that's worth a good look if you're inclined to get involved. The Volunteer Legal Handbook - 7th Edition looks at some of the possible problems and risks you might take as a volunteer. Here are a couple of examples that they describe :

  • The auto accident. You volunteer to drive a group of little league baseball players to a baseball game. You are involved in an auto accident and some of your little league passengers are hurt. Are you liable for their injuries? If so, will your insurance cover the claim?

  • The fired volunteer. You are an unpaid supervisor of a group of volunteers. One of the volunteers has failed to perform adequately, and you have terminated his volunteer status with the organization. Now the former volunteer has sued you and the organization for slander, libel and wrongful dismissal. Are you liable?
I'm going to take another look at that Volunteer Match site. There are a couple of really nice museums nearby that looked like they needed guides. It could be fun.


Jason Mulgrew said...


jason mulgrew
internet quasi-celebrity

William Slawski said...

Thanks, Jason!