How to Stand Out As a Successful Volunteer

Volunteering certainly requires a lot of dedication, whether you're volunteering at home or abroad. It is expected from a volunteer that they give their 100% to make the program a success. While going above and beyond isn't a requirement of volunteerism, there are few who simply raise the bar of perfection by being innovative and doing everything to the best of their ability.


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    Choose an appropriate program. There are myriad of volunteer programs, both at home and abroad, available for you to choose from. Select the one which fits your skills and field of interest the most.
    • If you have been a sport enthusiast throughout your life, getting into a volunteer abroad program as a sports mentor just makes sense. Similarly, if teaching is your “thing”, go for a teaching program. Playing a role that suits you is the best way to volunteer successfully.
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    Make sure you have time to dedicate to the cause. This is particularly important when volunteering abroad, because of the time commitment involved when you're unlikely to be able to work. Most of the people who plan to volunteer are either students in their gap year or professionals taking a sabbatical.
    • If your volunteering involves travel, make sure that everything is planned and booked in advance. If you have decided to go through a placement agency, make sure you have completed the registration process with them in advance. This will give you enough time to prepare yourself for the journey and the task ahead.
    • If your volunteering is on a local basis, make a schedule for how much you plan to help, and stick to it. For many, volunteerism activities often take a back-seat to work and other commitments; while this is understandable, a sure-fire way to stand out is to keep any commitment you make to the program.
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    Learn your mission and focus on it. Every volunteer program has a mission, and the most passionate volunteers live and breath it during their volunteering time. Make sure you read whatever documents the program offers about their goals, understand as much as you can about how the program is run, and attend any workshops or orientations that are on offer. The more you understand and can "get behind" the mission of the organization, the better a volunteer you will be.
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    Interact with locals, program participants, and other volunteers frequently. “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere”, said Lee LaCocca. This goes to show the importance of an effective communication in any field; even volunteering. Whether you're working abroad or with programs that have a local focus, interacting with the people who benefit from your efforts can keep you clued into the aspects of the project that matter them, informed about recent events in the community/field, and dedicated to the cause. Interacting with program participants and other volunteers can help you feel dedicated, motivated, and inspired. It can also help you find solutions to problems that you wouldn't otherwise see, from an outsider's point of view.
    • As a volunteer, you should build rapport and communicate regularly with the people in the program as well as the locals out in the city. This will not only help you understand the issues and the facts properly, but also make the locals more comfortable interacting with you, and help them open up with you to share things, which they otherwise might not.
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    Think of new ideas to improve situations. Fresh ideas, innovations, improvisations….. all of these are very important and key ingredients for the recipe of becoming an extraordinary and stand out volunteer. Always stay two steps ahead. Think of how to do any task in a different and more efficient manner. Give out suggestions and be the front runner in performing your tasks well. This will make you noticeable amongst other volunteers.
    • When you're looking for new ideas, it may help to talk openly with the program participants or others affected by the volunteer organization. Rather than assuming you know a better way to tackle the task, ask them what matters to them in that area. Be open to their ideas and use their feedback to brainstorm new solutions to whatever problem is on your plate.
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    Keep an open mind and learn. The first rule for a volunteer program is to be open minded and flexible. Whatever kind of volunteerism you're participating in, you have an opportunity to learn. If you're working with locals in a community abroad, it's a great chance to learn about their culture and customs and how other people live. If you're working on a project in your own community, it's a chance to connect with others and gather different points of view about problems you've only considered from your own outlook in the past. If you're working on nature conservation or ecological issues, it's a chance to learn about the environment and how we affect it. Open your mind up to whatever the experience has to show you.
    • This can be particularly hard with a volunteer abroad program. Remember that you are not on a luxury holiday. While the living arrangements should be safe, they may not be the most comfortable. Volunteering abroad is a significant experience for many; learn as much as you can during your project. Focus not only the work you do while on the project, but also learn about the culture, traditions, and lifestyle of the natives. Adjusting to the change is the key here.
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    Enjoy the experience. The best volunteers tend to enjoy what they're doing. It makes sense: if you have fun while you're working, or if you're inspired by the work you're doing, you'll just perform it better. Try to make time to connect with and enjoy the aspects of the program that give you the biggest positive feeling. Your enjoyment will show in how you interact with others on the program and in what kind of job you do there.
    • If you're volunteering abroad, make the best of your trip. During your volunteer stint, you will get breaks from the programs; try to make the best utilization of that time. Try to explore the city and nearby destinations as much as possible to learn about the history and people.


  • All this collectively will create a life changing experience for you, which you can use as a tool to connect and bond during your programs. People simply love it when you talk about their place, when they see an outsider taking interest in learning about their traditions and history; you will certainly get the most of their attention. This will also help you choose your souvenirs!

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Categories: Volunteer and Community Service