When people first decide to volunteer for charity or a non-profit organization, they focus all their time and energy on picking the perfect cause. But in addition to picking an organization you believe in to volunteer for, you should also spend some time figuring out what you’d like to be doing there. Believe it or not, it might not be related to your job skills, education, or your usual role among your friends and family. Just because you are an accountant who helps all your loved ones with their taxes, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider picking up a hammer to help build a house. Volunteering can be a fantastic opportunity to broaden your horizons and do some of the things your personal and professional life may not allow.
It’s easy to be very gung ho about helping the world when you first start volunteering, but as career and family pressures kick in and leave little room for extra curricular activities, helping others can take a back seat. Charities need consistency, and one of the best ways to ensure that is to make sure the people working with them are enjoying themselves. Here is a quick quiz to help you decide what comes naturally to you and what kind of volunteer activities you might enjoy most.
Question 1) What kind of gifts do you love to get the MOST?
A) Gift cards. It’s sentimental enough for someone to know that you like books, or art, or fashion but when it comes to actually picking out individual items you’d prefer to have control. It just saves you the trouble of having to return things you don’t like, or worry that you have to pretend to like them, and now there’s the adventure of discovery and possibilities ahead. In your mind that’s the most considerate and thoughtful gift to receive.
B) Anyone can get you something you want but only someone who really knows you knows what you need. It just feels ridiculous to have stacks of new DVDs and video games when your computer keeps crashing, or a beautiful antique jewelry box when the bicycle you ride to work desperately needs new tires. A frivolous gift can give pleasure for the moment, but making your life better every day in a practical way is a gift that keeps on giving.
C) You like shopping just as much as the next person but what you find really special is an experience. Depending on your interests, dinner and a show, membership to a museum, or a skydiving weekend energize and excite you. Life is meant to be lived, and there’s so much to do with so little time. Anyone that can help you get out there and make the most of it all makes you happier than anything in a gift bag ever could.
D) Expensive is impressive, and practical necessary, but the way to your heart is the sweet and sentimental. When an old friend recalls the first movie you watched together as kids and tracks down a copy, wraps it in your favorite color, and picks a card with a meaningful quote from your favorite author, well, that’s how you know how good and true a friend they are. And knowing you have friends that thoughtful is the real gift.
Question 2) Once you’ve picked a destination for your next big vacation, what’s the FIRST thing you do?
A) Buy travel magazines, look up articles on the top ten best things to do there, and flip through pages of online images. You may not be able to do it all, but you don’t want to miss out on the most original or popular destinations. This trip might be the only time you ever go to this particular destination (since there are so many other places you haven’t been yet!), and you need to make sure to do it big and do it right.
B) Travel books with more information than illustrations and a blank notebook might be your first purchase. After all, there are a lot of decisions to make and not a lot of time to make them. Train or plane? Hotel or sublet? Rent a car or use public transportation? Is it more important to save time or money? Which would make the most out of this trip, how much will it cost, and how long do you have to start saving? It might be overwhelming but once those steps are taken you can relax and daydream of the days to come.
C) Decide what to pack, which won’t be much because you’d rather buy items along the way, and after that you’re good. In fact, you’d rather not know too much detail about where you’re going or what there is to do there. You might start to subconsciously plan ahead, and who knows what spontaneous adventures or unique experiences you’ll miss out on? Much better to show up, ask around, and see what happens. If nothing else, you always come back with the best stories.
D) You like the unique, and you like to plan a little, but as far as you’re concerned magazines and guidebooks are boring and predictable. You prefer the personal touch, and the best way to discover that is to get tips from real, ordinary, everyday people who have been there. The most popular restaurant in town might be 5 star but who else would know the backstory of the couple who met at a small cafe, bought it after they married, and now runs it along with their kids? Only someone who has been there and spoken to them, and if they don’t advertise that story, even better!
Question 3) If you were throwing a party what would your MAIN priority be?
A) To stand out. If you’re going to go through all the effort of throwing a party it has to be special, and one way to do that is to make it the best it can be. No store bought cakes or packaged decorations for you. Which also means a lot of work, but you are way too smart to take on so much yourself and get overwhelmed. When people ask if there is anything they can do or bring, you know exactly what to tell them. This party is your vision, and it takes a village to make it happen. Good thing you have a lot of friends.
B) The essentials. You’re not so stuffy you’d try to control the evening, because not knowing what might happen is half the fun, but you do know what matters. The glue that holds a party together and keeps the wheel turning, like making sure there is enough food, water, drinks, and parking spaces just to start. You might be willing to let the guests pick the music, the games, or the toppings on a pizza, but there are some things you’d never leave to chance.
C) Surprises. Not just for guests but for you as well, and the only way to do that is leave everything to chance. Invite everyone you know, and encourage them to invite whoever they want. Make it a potluck and see what people bring. Instead of carefully choosing a playlist of music, put on the radio and see what comes up. You encourage variety and what could be more fascinating than a tiny slice of the world’s diversity right there in your living room?
D) Efficiency. You send out email reminders a few days before, make sure everyone has directions and arrange carpools, check to see if anyone has a food allergy, take all the keys at the door just in case, and borrow extra pillows and blankets for anyone who needs to stay the night. You keep the evening running smoothly and plan ahead because a night with no drama, accidents, or upsets is the most successful type of party you can imagine.
Larger than life, you tend to think big, and even if you don’t have all the great ideas yourself, you know one when you hear one. Your strengths are your instincts and people skills, and managing comes naturally to you. You can see a person’s talents and know exactly how to use them to their fullest potential, which is perfect when handing out assignments. Best of all, you’re a creative visionary that believes in possibilities, and your enthusiasm wins people over until everyone can see what you see. Perfect for organizing volunteers, applying for grant money, enticing backers, or pitching a new concept. If there’s one thing you know how to do, it’s making things happen.
Perfectly practical, you are the backbone, the nuts and bolts of any operation or enterprise. A master of details with a completely realistic and absolutely necessary point of view, others might talk big about changing the world but in the end, it’s you who gets it to the finish line. This may be applied to the accounting department, keeping track of every penny and cutting frivolous costs, or it might be managing time and resources. No matter which department you apply your skills to, you are the sieve and sooner or later every decision must go through you for approval. You may get the reputation for being the person who always says no, but stay strong, because all those no’s add up to the big yes. As in YES, we did make a difference!
A doer more than a planner, you prefer first hand experiences and are not afraid to get your hands dirty! Whether you’re digging water wells, building a house, handing out bandages or delivering a library of used books, you want to be there to asses the needs and see the smiles of every individual person you help. You travel light and well, and have no problem picking up at a moments notice because you believe that being there is the only way to know and understand. Observant, adaptable, and quick to catch on, you are comfortable in any situation and in any location. Your easy going nature, warm approach and lack of ego makes you welcome wherever you go and that makes it easier to help.
Behind every great leader is an entire team of support and you are at the head of that team. Teaching, research, organization, and being prepared are your priorities. You know better than anyone that sometimes it’s the small touches that can change the tone of any meeting or presentation. You realize the power that comes from a good logo and tagline, having enough supplies, and getting the right bottled water. You’re also the one that checks the fine print on contracts, makes appointments, and knows exactly what you need to pack when setting off across the globe. You have a great memory for people’s preferences and know how to make partners and donors feel welcome and important. When it comes to making big changes in the world, you know it’s the little things that count.