So, you got yourself enrolled to volunteer for an upcoming book distribution camp in a children’s hospital through an NGO website?
Sure it’s going to be fun… but are you aware of your rights and responsibilities as a volunteer?
Now, before we proceed…let’s briefly understand who exactly is a volunteer and what is volunteering?
A volunteer is an individual who of his own free will (voluntarily) offers his/her time, skills, services, resources, and expertise to others. And, volunteering can be described as an unpaid activity (mostly) where the volunteer devotes him/herself to the accomplishment of the activity.
Volunteering for NGO is a serious commitment that glues a community together. Volunteering allows you to offer your best services and resources to connect to your community to make it a better place. Volunteering is a two-way service where you help others and in the process help yourself as well. When you invest and spend your time and energy in volunteering, you invest an equal amount in yourself own yourself as well. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you to meet new people, make new friends, expand your network, learn new things, enhance your self-esteem and boost your social skills. Well, either way, it’s a win-win!
However, just because you voluntarily choose to contribute doesn’t mean that you do as you please or do the job haphazardly. You must bear in your mind that when you choose to volunteer “yourself”, you are saying yes to certain responsibilities and tasks assigned to you at the time that they are needed and you mustn’t avoid them. People expect to get the job done well from your end and on the other hand, you also have a certain set of rights which must be protected. A balance between these rights and responsibilities ensures and enables you to get the job done properly and protects you from facing any possible liabilities.
So, before you begin volunteering, let’s get clear about your dos and don’ts with these 14 rights and responsibilities as a volunteer –
Your Rights –
As a volunteer, you have the right to:
#1: Proper Orientation –
Before you start in your role as a volunteer, you need to absolutely clear about what the program or campaign is all about. You must have a complete idea of what is the mission or objective of the program and what your role must be in fulfilling this goal. You should get an accurate briefing of what kind of environment you will be working in and what sort of people will you be meeting and to who you are supposed to serve and report. You should be informed about the organization’s policy and especially about all benefits you are entitled to (if any such available), along with the process, the time required and protocols.
Simply put, there must be clear communication between the two involved parties and the commitments expected from you.
#2: Proper guidance and direction –
To effectively render your service, you need to know what you are supposed to do and how you must do it to accomplish it completely. You should be given proper directions, instructions, support and clear supervision by your coordinating volunteer. You need to know the proper details about the range of activities as why you are involved in the organization.
#3. Receive Training for the task –
In order to have complete knowledge and the right skills to execute the task, you need to be equipped with appropriate training for your role.
#4. Be treated as a part of the organization and be recognized for your contributions made –
As a volunteer, you have the right to be treated with equal respect and be welcomed as an integral part of your organization. Your opinions must be heard and your contributions must be recognized. You should have a say in the relevant decision making and your share of ideas and experiences should be recognized and they should be included and encouraged to participate in relevant meetings.
#5. Operate in a safe and supportive environment –
Your organization must ensure your safety by adhering to human rights in your work environment so you can fulfil your responsibilities without any barriers. The work environment must be hazard free and meet all the legal requirements of health and safety. Appropriate insurance must be maintained by the organization to safeguard this.
#6. Receive reimbursement for all the work-related expenses –
Your volunteer coordinator must reimburse you for all work-related expenses. Your reimbursement must cover all the commutation fares related to the volunteering work and similar types of expenses incurred for the same through the organization’s fund. However, your work should complement and not conflict with that of paid workers.
#7. Get a regular performance evaluation –
Evaluation helps to determine your performance. You must receive regular feedback about your work from your supervisor or coordinator so that you can reflect upon your actions and do the needful.
Your Responsibility –
As a volunteer, you are liable to follow the following responsibilities:
#1. Be punctual –
“Better be three hours early, than a minute late.” Punctuality forms your personality. You must present yourself on the date and time agreed upon. Make sure that you inform your supervisor or coordinator if you are unable to make it that day. Give them a head’s up so that they can make necessary arrangements can be made to cover your schedule.
#2. Be honest and efficient –
Do your duties well and to the best abilities that are expected from you when volunteering your services. In case you develop any special abilities and interests express them so that you can be placed where so that you can do exceptionally well.
#3. Commit to a time frame –
If you agreed to volunteer for any work, you must commit to a certain time frame. A few organizations require the completion of certain hours for a given period of time. Try to fulfil everything within the anticipated time frame.
#4. Accept guidance and receive decisions from your volunteer coordinator –
You must be open to receiving amendments when your coordinator offers you any suggestions or receives any guidance from a volunteer supervisor. Be open, be humble, and be good rather than adamant about being right.
#5. Be more participating –
Try to learn more about your role and acquire the proper knowledge and skills. In case you have any questions, suggestions or requests, use them on such occasions. Your coordinator also expects you to be active and participate in such events.
#6. Keep things confidential –
You are expected and trusted by your employer to maintain complete confidentiality on the account of any sensitive information or details about the organization or its clients. You mustn’t disclose any such information regarding anyone else’s personal data. This can also get you into legal trouble for violating this responsibility.
#7. Maintain a healthy personality –
Have an amicable vibe so that people around you can feel comfortable communicating with you and convey messages or information as and when the need arises.
Now, here’s a little something for you–
Basically, there are a few certain things that all volunteers are expected to do when they agree to give their time to an organization, and that the organization should be able to meet
Volunteers should be able to withdraw from their volunteering activities if they are given any tasks that they are uncomfortable with, or are physically incapable of performing to an adequate standard without feeling any pressure under a moral obligation to continue. If such a situation arises, then it becomes the responsibility of the organization to replace the volunteer.
Volunteers should be designated tasks that are up to and matches their personal goals, and skill-sets and motivated to do them as well as they can and as far as possible within and for the organization.
Volunteers must be recruited only where all staff agree to the arrangement and welcome volunteers as a part of the organization with a proper induction program organized for them including a clear understanding of the role of the volunteer they are about to start. And the paid staff needs to have a clear understanding of the role of the volunteer should that their work and methods don’t collide with each other.
Volunteers should never be used to perform tasks that are or have previously been done by paid workers and they should not be used to replace paid workers or threaten the livelihood of paid workers.
Volunteers must receive proper reimbursement and should not be charged anything to give their time.
Volunteers must receive equal opportunities and they must be treated as an integral part of the organization. Their efforts and contributions must be acknowledged and they should receive deserving recognition for the same.
Volunteers who are not accepted when applying to an organization have a right to know the reasons for such rejection.
Volunteers should rely on organizations for ensuring all health and safety procedures and must be familiar with the working environment and have proper regard for its safety policies.
Volunteers must respect the lines of supervision by the staff at the organization and should receive other support and training if necessary.
Now that you are aware of your dos and don’ts, let’s cover one last part that will make your overall experience with volunteering a great and positive one –
Just as you are expected to there are a few basic steps that organizations can take to help to ensure that things go smoothly from both ends to ensure that you have a positive experience in volunteering, both for the volunteer and the organization, and to minimize the risk of things going wrong.
- The right person at the right place for the right role: A volunteer interview must be conducted if the situation permits so that both parties can know a little more about each other. This will permit the employer to be honest and upfront with what they are expecting from the role. The volunteer can either accept or decline the role based on his skills.
- Prior role descriptions: The volunteers must be furnished with role descriptions and written outlines of tasks they may be expected to perform. It must clearly describe all the tasks, procedures, policies and parties involved and affected by the same. This will help bring clarity between the parties involved.
- Say “No” if it’s a No: This applies to both the coordinator and the volunteer. If you don’t think that the other is what you expected it to be or you are not comfortable with the working conditions, then feel free to decline the offer. However, it’s right for parties to expect explanations for such a decision to maintain transparency and avoid any possible chances of a conflict.
- Good Preparation: One needs to prepare for any event to nail it. There might be a lot to process, consider and take care of at the beginning but new volunteers at a project should have access to all the information and support they need from their fellow predecessors.
- Trial Period: A trial period for new volunteers is a good idea for both organizations and volunteers. It will allow both the involved parties to decide if the arrangement will work or won’t and gives an equal opportunity to review any problems to make things clear. Feedback is a very necessary step in this stage. Every volunteer must have a trial before working directly in the field.
- Support and Supervision: To develop their skills and achieve their full potential within the organization, volunteers need ongoing support and supervision to ensure that they are happy with their role and remain motivated to continue with their voluntary role which helps them to feel valued.
Volunteering is indeed a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. It will keep you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times. You can also learn a number of priceless lessons from volunteering that can lead to self-improvement, and confidence, and enhance us in every prospect. Since you give your time and ability to help someone who may be in need of help it is harmless to quote that “volunteering is the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”