Sudbury

5 tips for 1st-time volunteers

Today is Giving Tuesday. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, charities and organizations are hoping you’ll take the time to give back this holiday season, but where do you start?

It's the season of giving, but where do you start?

Helen Loiselle says many people looking to volunteer take on too much at once, and end up giving up. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Today is Giving Tuesday. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, charities and organizations are hoping you'll take the time to give back this holiday season, but where do you start? CBC News spoke with Volunteer Sudbury's program manager Helen Loiselle. It's her job to match people who want to volunteer with organizations in need of help.

Five tips for first-time volunteers:

1. Figure out what you have to give, and what you want to get back.

One of the first things to do is figure out the amount of time you want to commit, according to Loiselle. Is it one day a week? A month? A one-time commitment?

Next, are you looking to develop a skill? Do you have a valuable skill to offer?

2. Figure out the type of work you want to do.

What group do you want to work with? For example, are you interested in helping seniors, children or animals?

What type of work do you want to do? Are you looking for something social? Something you can do on your own?

"Maybe you crunch numbers all day long, and you're looking to volunteer with people and get out into the community," Loiselle said.

3. Once you've picked your charity, prepare yourself.

Loiselle said some groups may require you to fill out application forms or police record checks. Make sure you know what they need from you.

"Make sure you attend all necessary training so you feel prepared," Loiselle said. "And try to have a positive attitude going in," she said.

4. Don't take on more than you can handle.

Start small!

Be realistic with yourself and what you can commit.

"People often try to do too much," Loiselle said. "Then it becomes overwhelming and they decide not to continue to volunteer. You can always add on more volunteering after."

Loiselle said it's important that you are willing to say no if the charity is asking for you to do more than you are prepared for.

5. Don't be afraid to change directions

"The volunteer opportunity needs to have value for you too," Loiselle said. "If it isn't working out, don't keep doing it. Be honest with the organization and try your hand at something else."

Great time to start giving back

"Organizations who depend on regular volunteers have the hardest time this time of year," Loiselle said.

People are busy with family and many volunteers are retirees who head south for the winter.  Meals on Wheels is currently desperate for drivers this time of year too, she said.

Loiselle said food banks and homeless shelters all see a spike in demand for service this time of year too.

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