Seeking to volunteer for a nonprofit? Beware of those Four crimson flags that will sign a foul match


Ideally, retirees find fulfillment by combining their passion with volunteering. They love the idea of ​​improving their community using skills they have built over their lifetime. They also get to know people and make contacts.

What can go wrong

They can get into a pit of frustration in finding the right volunteer position. Your boss can prove to be angry. The stress can increase. And the work can prove to be disappointing or not rewarding.

To find the right place to volunteer, do your due diligence. Make sure that your enthusiasm overwhelms your judgment as you assess whether a particular opportunity suits your needs.

Read: What Jimmy Carter, 97, Can Teach Us About Retirement

“Retirees know the value of their time, probably better than most,” said Meg Moloney, chief operating officer for Points of Light, an Atlanta-based volunteer organization. “So ask questions and do research.”

She says that in many cases a friend or acquaintance will ask a retiree to volunteer. With all the excitement (“This is such a wonderful agency, it does a great job!”) And flattery (“You’re perfect for this role!”), It’s easy to get carried away.

Instead, look for details. Ask questions like:

-What is your role in the organization? How long have you been dealing with it? How did it develop during this time?

-How much do you support volunteers? Can you give examples?

-How many volunteers are you currently using? Can you put me in touch with a few of them?

Your friend may emphasize the increasing demand for your expertise – and how the agency is burdened with budget cuts, declines in donors, or other factors. Blushing with guilt, you can immediately agree to lend a hand yourself.

“Better to research the organization first,” said Moloney. She suggests online tools like GuideStar (for financial data) and Glassdoor (for employee reviews).

For now, put aside your eagerness to volunteer; Wear your detective hat instead. Look out for four red flags that raise concerns:

1. “You are alone.” While larger organizations may have a volunteer coordinator to oversee your efforts, nonprofits of all sizes should hire someone to introduce you and define your role. But if you feel helpless to begin with, that’s a bad sign.

“Not being responsive to your calls or emails can be a problem,” said Moloney. “Many non-profit organizations have a staff shortage, you have to take that into account. But they should get back to you anyway ”to answer your questions fairly quickly.

2. “We’re trying to stay safe, but it’s tough.” Volunteer retirees are not immune from injury or illness in the workplace. Working in confined spaces or lifting heavy boxes can expose you to risks that you initially didn’t realize.

“You should have information about your security logs, especially Covid logs,” Moloney said. “You should be very familiar with them”, not reaching into a back drawer to find them.

3. “We will keep you busy.” The organization should describe what you are going to do and why it is important. Specificity is great, but even a general overview (“It can be messy here, but your three priorities are …”) is better than a vague, aside remark (“Oh, don’t worry. Our volunteers are always busy.”).

“You want to determine what you’re going to do and whether the roles are of interest to you,” said Tobi Johnson, president of VolunteerPro, a global consulting firm serving nonprofits.

4. “We are changing.” There is basically nothing wrong with an organization that is going through a change in leadership. A new Executive Director can bring fresh ideas and a new sense of purpose to the team.

But if you see signs of turmoil, proceed with caution. Examples include a restless board of directors (note any recent resignations) or a sudden spike in employee turnover.

“The board has responsibility for the direction and trusteeship of the organization, so you should check this out,” said Johnson. “And ask to speak to other volunteers during the interview process” to get their views on the internal dynamics of the organization.

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