The 5 Essential Traits of GREAT Volunteers

By Jen Padgett, Events & Volunteer Coordinator

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a great volunteer?

I have been volunteering off and on with different organizations for almost twenty years, and I’ve never once wondered if I was a great volunteer. It was not until I became a Volunteer Coordinator that I began to see the difference between good volunteers and great volunteers.

Perhaps you are like me and you just assumed that all volunteers who show up are great volunteers!

Over the last ten months of working with the volunteers at The Adoption Exchange, there are five traits that stand out among our great volunteers.

  1. Reliability

I get it. Life happens. It sometimes gets in the way of our best intentions. But most organizations really count on volunteers to show up to make events run smoothly and get important work completed. Great volunteers fulfill their commitments, and if they can’t – for whatever reason – they help to find a replacement because they know we are counting on them.

  1. Flexibility

flexibleWhile physical flexibility is great for our health, great volunteers are mentally flexible – in other words, they are adaptable.

The kind of flexibility that I’m talking about is being willing to jump in where needed, even if it’s not the exact role you signed up for. In the non-profit world, not all volunteer roles are glamorous, nor do they always utilize your skills and talents. Having a flexible mindset allows for new experiences for you and it can also mean that you are making an impact in different ways.

  1. Enthusiasm

Three girlfriends in white T-shorts jump togetherYour smile and your enthusiasm are contagious! Whether you are helping at an event or behind-the-scenes in the office, great volunteers are excited to be there and it shows. Their enthusiasm and passion for the mission can inspire others to act.

  1. Proactive Communicators

communication-983x1024I recently received an email from a volunteer wondering why no one had asked her to help in a while. I was shocked, impressed, and dismayed all at once. Shocked and impressed that she would reach out to us instead of just moving onto another organization. Of course, I was also dismayed to learn the outreach effort currently being used meant some interested people were falling through the cracks. Great volunteers know that communication is a two-way street. While they rely on the Volunteer Coordinator or Manager to communicate with them, they are not afraid to be proactive and inquire about opportunities to help those causes which they passionately support.

  1. Ardent Ambassadors

WOMFinally, the number one trait of a great volunteer is their willingness to be an ambassador for the organization.

When I asked some of our volunteers how they came to be involved with The Adoption Exchange, almost all of them said it was because someone had asked them.  Certainly, there will always be volunteers who get involved with The Adoption Exchange because they have emotional ties to adoption or foster care.  The majority, however, become involved because of an invitation from someone else. Great volunteers understand the important role they play as an ambassador to the community on behalf of the organization. In other words, they talk about their volunteer work and they talk about the mission of The Adoption Exchange with their friends, then they go one step further and invite their friends to get involved as well.

Did you know that we have volunteers who have been with The Adoption Exchange for more than 30 years?! These volunteers were asked to get involved but what has kept them involved is their belief in our mission – that EVERY child deserves a loving and permanent connection.

While these five traits certainly stand out among our volunteers, I’ve been challenged through the writing of this blog to be a Volunteer Coordinator who also exemplifies these traits. To strive for consistency and reliability, to be flexible and understanding, to greet you with a smile and an encouraging word, to maintain open channels of communication, and always share the stories that keep us all connected to the mission.

Tell us what you think: What else makes a great volunteer?

If you think you have what it takes to be a GREAT volunteer, here are three ways you can get involved right now:

1.       Subscribe to receive email notifications about volunteer opportunities

2.       Join the Colorado Adoption Exchange Volunteer Facebook Group

3.       Tell us about yourself by filling out the Volunteer Interest Form

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