The Oak Life Journal
Nov | Dec 2023
5 Things Volunteers Want
By Ysabel Rodriguez
3 minute read
There is no doubt, volunteers help in so many ways than we can ever properly explain! In my experience as a volunteer at a children’s home, there has been a lot to encounter.
There have been both good and bad days, but the good always outweighs the bad when it comes to working in an orphanage setting. After some time, I have learned to appreciate both the days filled with challenges and the more mellow days.
That being said, here is my honest take on what volunteers are looking for from you, the orphanage director.
We are looking for you to have a plan or a set schedule on what the day looks like once we step foot on your campus.
Why do you think the work is so hard? Because you are coming relationships with the child’s entire life history. The extreme circumstances they have experienced call for extreme instinctive behaviors that we see them exhibit regularly.
Make sure you are clear and concise and share the information necessary to a volunteer’s devoted time there.
Giving the volunteer predictability about the schedule of the day, as well as with child behaviors and any challenges that may have been presented before they got there, can go a long way to make the experience positive and helpful.
2. Be a man of your word
Matthew 5:37 tells us, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’”
Volunteers don’t want to have to guess if they can rely on the word you have spoken to them; they want to be sure that your word is good.
We know there are plenty of times when it seems you have ten thousand items on your to-do list. But, when it comes to communication with volunteers, clear follow-through on scheduled plans will be greatly appreciated.
We all want to make sure we are good stewards of what God has entrusted to us—beginning with following through on our spoken commitments.
Remember, your volunteers’ experiences are a walking billboard for the Home. Word of mouth is still the greatest outreach tool.
3. Team support
Volunteers want to feel supported by you and your team. They want to know that they are not in this alone, but that they are a part of the organizational family.
Do not expect volunteers to address a child’s behavioral outbursts, much less know how to handle that properly. In general, then, do not leave volunteers alone to take on a caregiver’s responsibilities. They are there to generously offer their time, and your constant support should make them feel confident and secure.
Understandably, it is more convenient at times to leave kids with the volunteer that has come during that time.
Understandably, it is more convenient at times to leave kids with the volunteer that has come during that time. But no matter what, always have at least one other team member from your Home that will be with them. This person will be in charge of managing behaviors, offer support, and to answer any questions the volunteer might have.
Volunteers appreciate being told what to do—they are actually expecting it. They are there providing their time and are looking to be as efficient as possible.
With this in mind, have clear expectations and communication for your volunteer on what the day will look like as well as what task they are expected to complete.
If the volunteer is there to offer a specific program or class, ensure that they understand the boundaries and offer as much support as you are able (i.e. area/room set-up, proper materials available, additional adult supervision).
We want to make sure they leave with a pleasant volunteer experience!
I can not stress this one enough—people want to know that what they are doing matters! Remember that they are serving from the heart and that their time is very valuable.
Volunteers want to feel appreciated for the work they are doing. They want to know that what they are doing is important and that they are ultimately making a difference.
Gratitude doesn’t have to be physical, monetary gifts—it just has to be intentional and thoughtful. Sometimes it looks like public recognition, a private thank you, a social media shoutout or even a handmade craft/card from your children directed to them.