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What Skills Are Required to Become a Great Volunteer?

Article by Sarah Lustig

Sarah Lustig

Posted: March 14, 2023

Becoming a successful volunteer means understanding and developing the different skills and qualities that help to promote success and make a positive impact on any volunteering experience.

Each volunteer opportunity is different and requires different skills and attributes, however, there are certain common traits that can be developed over time. These include:

Building Relationships

Volunteering can often require working closely with others, whether it’s with the project itself, with other volunteers or with those receiving assistance through the initiative. Making positive connections and maintaining healthy relationships is key to successful volunteering.

Being friendly, respectful and approachable are all important qualities to possess when working with others. Listening actively to people, maintaining empathy and showing a collaborative spirit can help to make connections.

Time Management

Time management is very important when taking part in any volunteer role. Knowing how to manage your time efficiently will make all the tasks more achievable and allow you to focus on more important aspects of your task.

Creating a plan or schedule of your tasks can help greatly with time management, although this will probably be included as part of your volunteer program. Scheduling tasks based on due dates, importance, complexity and personal preferences can help set goals and make objectives easy to attain, especially when you’re leading a project. Additionally, understanding the commitments of your volunteer role prior to commencing can also help when managing time.

Developing Self-Motivation

Volunteers need to have a strong level of self-motivation in order to be successful. After all, it’s up to you to make sure your tasks are completed on time and you are managing your responsibilities correctly.

Self-motivation is about understanding the reason for volunteering and maintaining focus throughout your volunteering period. Keeping yourself motivated is not always easy, as it’s natural for enthusiasm to drop from time to time. Having a schedule and setting goals can help to ensure motivation.

Being Flexible and Adaptable

Volunteer roles can quickly change because of circumstances outside of your control. Being willing to be flexible and adaptable in these situations can make all the difference. You never know what could happen during your volunteering period; however, with flexibility and adaptability, you will be able to cope with unexpected situations from both within the organisation and from those receiving help from it.

Demonstrating Commitment

You demonstrate commitment and dedication by showing up on time to your suggested shifts, dedicating your time when necessary and demonstrating strong will when undertaking difficult tasks. A good volunteer not only shows dedication by completing your tasks but also by taking initiative in areas you feel their help is most needed.

Setting Goals

Successful volunteers have the ability to set personal and collective goals and objectives which they work towards each day. Setting goals helps keep them focused on the task ahead while setting objectives guides the amount of effort needed each day. Furthermore, understanding the mission of the organisation and the specific project is critical when setting goals.

Working in a Team

Teamwork is vital in any volunteer role. Working collaboratively with others, understanding the dynamics of group work and accepting advice from more experienced team members can all help make you a successful volunteer. Communication is essential when working in a team environment, so being an active listener and being open to different opinions are essential skills.

Representing an Organisation Positively

When volunteering with an organisation, it’s important to remember that you are always representing them publically. Therefore, it’s important to act with respect and dignity at all times and to conduct yourself in ways that reflect positively on the organisation, its mission, beliefs, values and ethics.

Taking Initiative

Successful volunteers are always willing to take initiative where appropriate, stepping into roles of greater responsibility as needed. This demonstrates leadership qualities as well as taking ownership of tasks which is essential within a volunteer role. Additionally, successful volunteers also have a proactive attitude, which helps them remain self-motivated while leading others towards achieving shared goals within an organisation.

Being empathetic

Volunteers have the power to bring real change to communities and natural environments. Making a positive impact requires understanding the needs and priorities of the community, whether it’s water projects, women’s empowerment or climate change issues. By understanding community needs, organisations can better target areas in need of improvement.

Applying Problem-Solving Skills

As with any situation requiring decision-making, volunteers are often called upon to use problem-solving skills in order to reach the best possible solution for any given situation. This can involve making use of effective communication skills as well as paying attention to details. Learning how to break down problems into smaller pieces can also make finding solutions easier.

Being Professional

A successful volunteer operates in a professional manner with organizational staff, other volunteers, recipients of services and others involved in the project. This means following protocols set out by the organization, being punctual and never engaging in negative behaviour such as gossiping or undermining people.

Being Tech-savvy

Many organisations rely heavily on technology in order to carry out their projects. Taking advantage of technology can include utilising online tools such as data capturing tools, project management websites or social media apps.

Opportunities For Growth And Development

Successful volunteers are able to create opportunities for growth within their organisation by participating in activities such as leadership roles or mentorship programs, or doing online courses. By taking advantage of these programs volunteers can further hone their skills plus expand their network for potential career prospects.

Put Your Volunteer Skills to the Test with GVI

The best way to grow and develop your skills is to join an ethical volunteer program abroad with GVI. You can support local environmental organisations in remote habitats all over the world, by signing up to join a nature conservation program. Or, if you’re passionate about assisting locally-led projects to implement social impact projects, you can join inspiring community development programs. No matter what volunteer journey you choose, you will use your specific skills and expertise, and grow personally and professionally.

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