What is the Difference?

We often get requests from volunteers who want a position that will be inspiring, challenging, and rewarding – and a volunteer position that will help them build skills and gain knowledge so that they can explore or strengthen their career options. 

The number of people inspired to join a profession as a result of their volunteer work is potentially massive. We have excellent examples of local volunteer programs who collectively have helped 1000’s of students and emerging professionals find a space to learn, connect, and strengthen their resumes. As a community we should be proud of having helped develop generations of emerging social workers, medical and health practitioners, museum and heritage specialists, artists etc. 

Recently we had a wonderful group of newcomers drop by Volunteer Victoria. We welcomed them and asked about their volunteering wishes and experiences. They mentioned that they had already been given volunteer positions at a local restaurant. Shortly afterwards we read on a resume that a young lady volunteered for several  months at a local for-profit gym. 

These isolated reports raised some concerns and questions. We wondered: When and how do we help new volunteers learn the difference between volunteering, an unpaid training program, practicum or internship, and just working for free? Do we spend enough time reviewing job descriptions with new volunteers to explain our expectations and to explore theirs? And, how can we do a better job of informing volunteers of their rights?

As the summer approaches and new volunteers enter the marketplace, we encourage you to think about how you communicate:

  • job descriptions and expectations
  • the non-monetary benefits of volunteering 
  • expectations for time commitments
  • potential learning and training opportunities
  • the volunteers bill of rights
  • how your volunteers might be recognized

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