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Volunteer Tip: Ongoing vs. Special Event

Not all volunteer positions are alike, Thankfully! This post will shed light onto the main differences between an ongoing volunteer position and volunteering at a special event.  Let’s begin with ongoing.

Ongoing means continuous. These positions occur on a regular basis and typically have a set schedule. It may take a significant amount of training so a new volunteer every week is not ideal. Depending on the organization, regular may mean once a month or once a week. The schedule will either be provided in the description or can be discussed over the phone before the interview. Yes, interview! Generally, ongoing positions will require that you attend an interview with the volunteer coordinator. Organizations want to screen their volunteers into their organizations. This promotes better volunteer matching, improved quality and safety of programs and reduced risks and liability.  Get curious and bring questions, such as, What happens if I get sick? Who do I report to if there is an issue? or How long will this position run for? and even What skills are being utilized at this position?

Some ongoing positions require police record checks and vulnerable record checks from the volunteers. Ask your interviewer if you will be reimbursed for the police check. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself! Once you have completed the interview, you will be ready to begin training for your new volunteer position.

One more note about ongoing. Ongoing does not mean forever.  Most organizations prefer their volunteers to make a commitment, for example, for 6 months or 100 hours. Be sure to discuss this commitment during your interview. The more informed you are, the better decision you can make. Not sure if you’ll enjoy it once trained? This is the topic of a future post!

Special events (SE) are one off or annual events that need extra hands to help the event run smoothly. There is so much variety with SE’s! From the main theme of the event, location, attractions, audience, and position requirements to the people volunteering. Hopefully, all the details are included in the volunteer position description as to shift time, location, duties/expectation, and how to apply. If not, those are important details to ask the coordinator. On average, a special event shift runs around 4 hours. Some positions are special skill based for example, volunteer photographers, while other tasks can be completed by people with little to no experience. Most commonly, the sign-up process is simple and won’t require a police record check.

SE’s are perfect for those who want to gain a diversity of experiences, see behind the scenes of an event, explore a variety of skills, interact with a ton of new people or just be part of something big!

 

 

Check out these two volunteer experiences and how they viewed ongoing versus special event:

            Name: Shelley D.      Age: 44

1) Can you describe your first volunteer experience? (age, event/organization, city, duties, sign-up process)

“First time I volunteer was for a requirement in my religion class in grade 10. I was a customer service rep for the beauty salon in the hospital. Once I finished those hours, I continued to volunteer in the hospital’s gift shop, cafeteria & as a candy striper. This was in Red Deer. Sign-up processes included paperwork & an interview.”

2) What are the difference between an ongoing volunteer position and a special event volunteer position?

“Key difference to me is time commitment. Ongoing indicates volunteering at a certain time weekly or monthly or as needed. Special events give you the opportunity to volunteer for a day or a shift. Variety with special events volunteering.”

 3) What has been your favorite ongoing position? What did you enjoy most about it? Is there anything you would have changed? What value did you gain from that experience?

“Favorite ongoing was being on 2 political campaigns. I enjoyed learning about political issues & what people had to say about what elected officials could do to improve their community both locally & provincially. Not being a political type person, I learned the value of truly listening to what people have to say, staying true to your beliefs, and aspiring to create change based on those values.”

4) What has been your favorite special event position? What did you enjoy most about it? Is there anything you would have changed? What value did you gain from that experience?

“Favorite special events position has been gift wrapping. Value gained from this was meeting new people, seeing how happy it made customers & teaching those who said they were terrible at wrapping to wrap & watching the pride they expressed when they actually accomplished it.”

5) Do you have a preference between the two options? Please provide details about your preference:

“I do prefer special events. I like the variety of the events. It also is a short-term commitment. You meet different people each time.”

6) What do you look for when searching for volunteer opportunities and deciding to sign up for one?

“What value I would gain? Will I have fun? Does it support something I believe in? Can I learn a new skill or experience something I haven’t experienced before? What can I bring to the table to benefit the organization?”

             Name: Bryce B. Age: 24

1) Can you describe your first volunteer experience? (age, event/organization, city, duties, sign-up process)

“I was maybe 8 or 9 and my mom signed me up to volunteer at a farmers’ market in my hometown, Drayton Valley. I don’t recall being extremely productive.”

2) What are the difference between an ongoing volunteer position and a special event volunteer position?

“I consider special events to be more of one-time opportunities where ones responsibilities begin and end within the operating times of the event. Ongoing positions are not project-based.”

3) What has been your favorite ongoing position? What did you enjoy most about it? Is there anything you would have changed? What value did you gain from that experience?

“My involvement with rotaract over the last few years, I’ve taken on a variety of roles. I’ve made many connections & friends, & I got to witness the tangible difference we made in the community. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

4) What has been your favorite special event position? What did you enjoy most about it? Is there anything you would have changed? What value did you gain from that experience?

“Volunteering on the docks at the ATB Financial Lethbridge Rotary Dragonboat Festival. I was responsible for tying and untying incoming and outgoing boats and I was able to glean a lot of insight into why they were participating and it was especially inspiring to converse with the women’s breast cancer survivor team. When one older woman complained how tired she was of paddling as she stepped in the boat, another woman said “None of us would be here if we were quitters.” I nearly cried. If I could change anything, I would have brought a hat or sunscreen because my sunburned forehead later peeled off. ”

5) What do you look for when searching for volunteer opportunities and deciding to sign up for one?

“I look for skills-based roles first, with organizations whose values align with my own. I consider whether it can fit in my schedule, what commitment I have to make and how lengthy/complicated the sign-up process is.”

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DR. FOSTER JAMES PENNY BUILDING
324 5TH STREET SOUTH
LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA
T1J 2B5
PHONE: 403-332-4320
FAX: 403-332-4321

 

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