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What Organisations Look for in a Good Volunteer

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 1 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
What Do Organisations Look For In

No matter what kind of organisation or charity you decide to approach in order to offer your services as a voluntary worker just because it’s an unpaid position, you should never make the mistake of believing that they’ll take just about anybody and that they should be grateful if someone is willing to give their time for free. In fact, it’s just the opposite. People tend to volunteer for a particular cause or project because they are passionate about the cause and/or because they believe that they themselves can benefit from the experience in some way or other.

Likewise, people who work in organisations whose role is to attract volunteers are also there because they, too, are passionate about the cause they’re working on behalf of and so it’s obvious that they want to ensure that the volunteers they choose are right for the positions. After all, many organisations and charities rely totally on donations and it’s inevitable that if volunteers are recruited who are not up to the job or simply give off the impression that they don’t want to be there, this could ultimately reflect badly on the organisation itself.

So What are Organisations Looking for in a Volunteer?

There will be more specific examples of that later but, to begin with, it’s useful to look at what volunteering is and what volunteers do. They’re basically regular people who give up some of their time to help individuals, organisations and causes out of choice and for no financial gain in return.

Volunteering is, in effect, an expression of concern about something or somebody other than oneself. It’s about putting in the time, effort and commitment to help fellow men, women or animals or to contribute towards a cause that you feel passionate about. It’s also about having the determination to put your values and beliefs into action with a view to improving the quality of a person’s life or the quality of a situation. If you study this paragraph carefully, you’ll be able to pick out certain qualities that organisations will be seeking when recruiting volunteers. A definition and description is one thing however. Here are a few specific examples of qualities which all organisations which rely on volunteers will be looking for in their recruitment programme and as a potential recruit, it is your job to highlight specific examples in which you can demonstrate that you possess these qualities.


  • Enthusiasm – a positive attitude is vital
  • Common sense – knowing the difference between right and wrong, good and bad
  • Non-judgemental – being able to take an objective view of a person’s problems – even if they’re of their own making
  • Awareness – being able to recognise other people’s needs and able to look for ways to meet those needs as a result of training and your own life experiences
  • Reliable – willing to devote a set amount of time regularly
  • Compassionate – having and empathy with the plight of a particular person or situation
  • Committed – demonstrating your passion for a cause
  • Self-confident – able to work both autonomously and as part of a team where necessary
  • Good communication – able to relate to both fellow workers and those you are trying to help and a willingness to make suggestions for improvements
  • Self-assured – able to take constructive criticism on board to improve one’s own skills and ability to help others
These are just some of the qualities volunteers are expected to have. However, it would be quite wrong to suggest that voluntary organisations are only seeking people who have many skills and are very self-assured. Quite often, it's people who have suffered problems themselves who go on to make some the best volunteers. Therefore, people who have had challenging life issues and experiences should be encouraged to apply as they can help from experience. Likewise, unless a role specifically states it, don’t be put off by a lack of formal education, qualifications or experience. Just as with any job, you're not expected to hit the ground running and you'll receive training and support to help you carry out your duties. Volunteers come from all walks of life and different backgrounds and providing you are prepared to show commitment and are willing to learn, you should never feel that your contribution would not be welcomed as the opposite is often the case.

Obviously, the exact skills organisations will be looking for in their volunteers will vary depending on the nature of the work. However, if you look at all of the bullet points above and try to tailor your application form and interview so that you can demonstrate some of those personal qualities, you’ll be heading in the right direction to obtain the volunteer job you’re looking for. However, a word of caution. You need to be able to ‘walk the walk’ as well as ‘talk the talk’. Therefore, its one thing saying all the right things, you also need to believe in them too. So, take a good look through these points once again and, if you feel totally at odds with several of the desired attributes that organizations are looking for, then perhaps you’ll need to reassess whether or not volunteering is right for you.

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Really helpful points on voluntary services.Thank you so much. I didn't know much about volunteering but now I'm informed. Thank you once again.
none - 18-Jul-11 @ 7:50 PM
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