5 types of volunteer work

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There are many ways to help and volunteer your time. You can provide manual labor or you can mentor, sell, teach, plan, organize, manage, and even entertain. There are short-term volunteer jobs that you do for a few weeks or even just for a day. On the other hand, long-term jobs like advocacy work, can span a lifetime. All of these admirable tasks fall into these five general categories:

  1. Formal

    Formal volunteering programs are structured and supervised. These are long term programs that also involve long term, regular attendance from the volunteers. Formal volunteering programs usually have managers or coordinators that recruit, train, supervise, and check volunteers’ work outcomes. These programs have a strong emphasis on policies, procedures, and quality management of services being delivered.

    Example positions: Museum helper, assisting for large hospitals, or helping fundraising efforts for large charities.
    Sample activities: tour guide or docent, greeter, assistant for serving meals for patients, printing out and mailing letters for marketing campaigns.
    See current volunteer opportunities at the Manitoba Museum.

  2. Governance

    Volunteers in governance work provide leadership and direction to an organization. They help in the planning and decision-making involved in various aspects of an organization’s operations. Those who fit in this type of work usually have career experience or advocacy related to the organization’s main focus.

    Example positions: Serving in the board of directors of a not-for-profit, member of a parish administration board, treasurer for the PTA
    Sample activities: attending regular meetings, taking down meeting minutes, basic accounting

  3. Non-formal

    Non-formal volunteer work is different from informal volunteer work. Non formal volunteer work is usually done in local communities in unfunded and unstructured settings. Informal volunteer work, on the other hand, are voluntary acts of helping and kindness (like buying an elderly lady neighbour’s groceries or babysitting for a friend). Those who join non formal programs often think of themselves as members or friends rather than volunteers.

    Example positions: Volunteering for a hobby group, joining neighbourhood safety patrols, street clean-ups.
    Sample activities: Teaching arts and crafts, walking and monitoring the neighbourhood at a scheduled time, picking up trash

  4. Social action

    Social action volunteers are joined together by a common advocacy or goal. And like non formal volunteers, they regard each other as friends or comrades. A social action volunteer program can have structure, for example having a coordinator or leader, but some do not. Volunteers do not usually have regular hours of volunteer time. But volunteers make up for it since they are usually very passionate and motivated about the cause and work hard towards achieving specific social change.

    Example positions: lobbying for political groups, joining a campaign for environmentalism, campaigning for research/studies on a certain illness or disease
    Sample activities: Attending rallies, talking to people about issues, making placards, convincing people to sign up for a cause, making phone calls
    Check out Greenpeace Winnipeg’s activities and sign up to volunteer.

  5. Project based

    In this type of volunteer work, volunteers provide their services for projects that have defined time frames. This requires volunteers to have specific skills to contribute to clearly defined goals to be delivered at defined schedules. Project based work can exist within a formal program or can be a standalone project. It can have leaders or coordinators but they are not expected to manage the volunteers but work with them.

    Example positions: Volunteering at Folklorama, joining a committee planning the anniversary of your town
    Sample activities: Welcoming visitors, drafting a communications plan, soliciting advertisers for a commemorative book.
    There’s still time to volunteer at Folklorama.

Other types:

You may have heard of internship year or gap year volunteering and voluntourism. These types of volunteer work are usually geared for students or young people who want to experience working for a non-profit or for an NGO. More often than not, these are carried out overseas. Volunteers are expected to work within a specific time frame during which they are given the opportunity to experience local culture while providing services like teaching a language or assisting the organization in various tasks.

With recent technological advances, online volunteering and micro volunteering have also been introduced. Online volunteering work can range from mentoring to helping design websites or assisting in social media campaigns (check out English Online’s E-Mentor Program if you want to try online volunteering). Meanwhile, micro volunteering, as the name implies, consists of small actions done online. Examples are donating to a cause through crowdfunding sites (Kickstarter, GoFundMe, etc.) or joining campaigns by providing your digital signature (example: Open Letters to the government on various issues from ONE) via email. These types of volunteering provide opportunities for those who have no time, unable to be physically present, housebound, or are in far off places. Anybody can get involved now as long as they are willing to help.

Sources: Types of volunteering, Volunteering Queensland; The five types of volunteer programs and how to pick the right one, Steph Dyson, Go Overseas; and 5 different types of volunteering activities, Volunteer Weekly. Retrieved July 5, 2018.

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Community Resources

There are many volunteer opportunities in Manitoba. Here are some of them:

Go to Volunteer Manitoba for other volunteer opportunities. Key in your preferences in the search options or scroll down to the bottom of the page for a complete list.

Check your community center’s bulletin board for volunteer opportunities. Your child’s school is also a good source of volunteer positions you can consider.

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