Tips for Group Volunteering

by Jayne Cravens,

Many people like to volunteer as a team. They can be employees from a particular company, members of a club or association, or even just a group of friends who would like to spend time together at a volunteer activity. Group volunteering is an excellent way to learn more about each other and build up a sense of team. Some corporations promote volunteering as a way for employees to learn more about each other and to see each other in roles different from the hierarchy of the workplace: imagine the secretary being the leader of a volunteer cleanup crew at a beach, and directing a team that includes her CEO!

Here are some general tips for people who want to volunteer as a group (see this article for information on family volunteering):

  • One person from the group will need to be the primary group contact and deliverer of information. This person will receive all communications on behalf of the group regarding volunteering, and will be responsible for communicating with all group members. This person will also attend any orientations required before volunteering, and communicate information from this orientation to other members.
  • The group needs to take an assessment of all group members' availability for, interests in and goals for a group volunteering activity. This will help you in choosing a group assignment, and ensure that everyone has a positive experience and that their expectations will be met. For instance, if the group is interested in environmental issues and members are only available to volunteer on Saturdays, then you may want to contact local environmental groups and state agencies about possibilities to participate in a trail repair event.
  • Does your group want to be engaged in the same activities during the entire group volunteering endeavor? Or, would your group be willing to separate at the event or location to engage in a variety of tasks; for instance, at a community center, one person reads to an elderly person while others help at an activity for youth and others help re-organize the center's stock room.
  • Do members of your group want to bring family members along to volunteer? The group will need to decide if this is acceptable, and permission to bring family members will have to be secured from the volunteer hosting organization.
  • What talents and experiences are volunteers interested in sharing in this group effort? For instance, the marketing director may not want to help with marketing efforts as a volunteer but, rather, share her talents at basic home repair.
  • Someone in the group needs to have the responsibility to fill out application forms; often, volunteer hosting organizations require the completion of such forms. A representative of the group or just one member may be asked to complete a Waiver of Liability form.
  • If you are volunteering on behalf of an organization or company, you must make sure the organization or company supports the group volunteering activity and all the responsibilities such entails. Also, ask the organization or company how it wishes to be represented within the group volunteering activity. Sometimes, companies don't wish to be represented at all, other than by their employees engaging in the group volunteering effort; others want their employees to wear a company t-shirt while volunteering, and still others may want to publish a press release highlighting the volunteer activity.
  • If you are participating in an employee-based group volunteering activity on company time, or if you are taking vacation time to volunteer on behalf of the company, make sure you have permission and support from your immediate supervisor.
  • You must give organizations sufficient lead time to place your group into a volunteering activity; for disaster relief situations, this can be immediate, but most organizations will need several weeks to prepare an assignment for your group.
  • After all of the above steps are completed comes the hardest part: actually finding a group volunteering activity. If you engage in all of the above activities beforehand, however, you will shorten the time it takes to actually get started on a group volunteering assignment once you have found one. Good places and ways to look:

    • contact your local volunteer center
    • look for events by local nonprofit organizations, NGOs and schools (charitable performances, science fairs, and other one-time events often need volunteers to help)
    • ask group members to contact nonprofit organizations they have a relationship with or with a mission they are particularly attracted to, to ask about potential group volunteering activities

    Once you have identified potential volunteering activities, be sure to ask the hosting organization:

    • the exact times and dates volunteers will need to be there
    • the location volunteers should go to when they arrive
    • if there are age restrictions
    • about the availability of parking
    • what tools and resources will be provided, and what the volunteers are expected to bring themselves
    • what food and drinks will be provided, and what the volunteers are expected to bring themselves
    • how volunteers should dress

    On the day or days of the group volunteering endeavor:

    • be on time
    • confirm responsibilities and commitments with organizers
    • take pictures

    A few days after completion of the group volunteering endeavor, ask all group members about their experience. Bring them together for lunch for an informal discussion, or have all group members complete a written survey. What did they like? What did they learn? What do they wish they could have done that they didn't get to do? What do they wish had been different? What do they hope for the next time? Share these results with the organization that hosted you, as well as the organization or company that sponsored you.