At IDEAS, we are often asked why people should choose an organization with which to volunteer overseas. And what we tell them is that there is far more benefit in going with a team of experienced cross-cultural professionals than without. There is power, safety, growth and impact in numbers!
If you are looking to volunteer this year, I encourage you to do your homework. Here are a few questions to ask on how to pick the right volunteer organization:
- Do I agree with their mission, vision, values and methodology? This is crucial! These distinctives will directly impact your volunteer experience. Research the organization and ask questions to make sure you are in alignment. You can read about IDEAS here.
- What is the organization's expertise? A proven track record and qualified personnel are fundamental to an organization. You want to make sure they have a vast knowledge on the type of work they do and the community with which they are working. Also, ask to see what others have said about their experiences with that organization.
- How will I be supervised? Whether we tend to be a Lone Ranger or we gravitate towards being micro-managed, the relationship between volunteer and supervisor can make or break the experience and the success of the project. Be sure to ask about the leadership structure before you sign up to go. At IDEAS, all of our volunteers speak with our project supervisors before they ever agree to commit. We have found this to be extremely valuable!
- Does the organization provide training or an orientation? Even if you have volunteered countless times, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of training before you begin your volunteer assignment. This helps to set expectations, clarify common goals and the set the necessary protocols for safety, cultural adaptation and integration, and teamwork. An organization that does not provide training or an orientation is not providing you with the tools you need to be successful, nor is it keeping the best interest of the project and project community in mind.
There are many other questions you can ask that will help you make the best decision, but these are a great place to start! We hope that whichever organization you choose, it proves to be the best fit for you and for the community of impact.
What questions have you asked to help you decide which organization is right for you?