Why is it so hard to volunteer?

I am interested in doing some volunteer work, and so far have called 2 places and never received a call back. The first place I called was a local summer camp in my neighborhood and I also called the red cross, both times the person in charge of volunteering does not answer the phone and it goes to voicemail, I leave a short message saying I am interested in volunteering but I have a couple questions and can you call me back. And I get no call back. I mainly want to find out if I can volunteer for a job like answering the phones or greeting guests since I have an ankle injury and can’t stand or walk around for hours, and see if they can accommodate that. It is really strange they don’t return my calls, and almost puts me off the idea of volunteering entirely.

I have never had problems volunteering. I am a serial volunteer. You need to find the right group. Maybe your limitation puts them off. Don’t tell them. Show up at a red cross event and do what you can. If you cannot stand or walk around that is time to tell it. Keep trying.

Places are afraid of The Crazy and probably only take known people.

I’d guess that the typical volunteer coordinator is really busy, and likely overworked as it is; they don’t have time to spend on the phone w/ you if it may not even work out for you to help them. That’s why so many organizations have a website.
You may have better luck w/ AmeriCorps VISTA, which is all local and has comprehensive descriptions of the positions available.

Keep trying. Remember that the volunteer coordinator might also be a volunteer. One of the characteristics of successful volunteering is the ability to tolerate a fair amount of disorganization and frequent rather discouraging events. If you are the kind of person who likes to be in control of their environment, and chafes when things are not just-so, you’ll struggle as a volunteer. Volunteering is usually messy.

Speaking as someone who volunteered a lot but has a less agitated life just donating money.

I’ll take a shot: the reason why it may be difficult to hear back is…because the person who would make those callbacks is a volunteer themself ! And only spends a limited amount of time on follow ups on applicants.

I have volunteered for a number of different organizations, and your experience is not uncommon. Stick with it. There is ALWAYS a need. And it can be frustrating when you know you can help/do a certain task, but they’re not responding. Except in certain situations (where I was personally introduced to the person in charge of the program), it usually takes a while to hear back. Although they (whoever) can always use more help, reviewing applicants often takes a back seat to the day to day.

My girlfriend is volunteering for the Red Cross now, and I can tell you a little about their organization. They are somewhere around 90% staffed by volunteers. It is an amazing organization that can operate and rely on so many volunteers. They also get a LOT of applications for volunteers, so there is a lot of screening that goes on. Depending on your skill set and their current need, your application may jump out. But if that’s not the case, then they will need to get to reviewing and seeing where you fit on their own time. Again, with 90% volunteer staff, there is ALWAYS a need - it’s just a matter of finding what works for them and your schedule.
If you do decide to volunteer for them, be prepared for training (mostly online). They are big on training. And the more you’re trained on, the more places they can use you.

Along with being patient, I would also recommend reaching out to more organizations. (If nothing else, tell them you would be available to help…reviewing applications and calling back applicants ! :wink:

I never mentioned my injury on the voicemail, just said I had a couple questions about volunteering, I was planning to tell them once I got them on the phone. That is what makes it so strange they didn’t return my call. How desperate for volunteers are places like the red cross? You would think they would want volunteers but it seems like they don’t.

You’re drawing this conclusion after you’ve called TWO places?? Conclusion not warranted from such a small sample size.

How long is it since you left a message? The last place I tried to volunteer to didn’t get back to me for nearly two months. That’s after answering an online ad and filling out a long application form. It happens.

I think the person who dealt with applications was only there one day a week and had been away for a couple of weeks, then took a while dealing with the backlog. By the time they called, I’d got a new job and didn’t have the hours spare.

For a more extreme version, I once tried to volunteer with a well known national charity which runs on volunteers, sent in an application, chased up, finally got an interview almost a year after my initial application. It went great, I got accepted, they said they’d contact me for training, and 6 months later (after multiple follow ups) they still hadn’t.

I didn’t know that it was a problem. Typically, I’m fending off volunteer opportunities, not seeking them. Your problem might be that you’re looking for one-off volunteer opportunities. That’s kind of a thing that is popular among the younger generations, so most places are swamped with people who want to give up two hours for a one time event that they can post on Instagram and honestly, those types of volunteers are typically just more trouble than they are worth. By the time you get them up to speed, they have taken their photo, made their post and are on to something else. The volunteering that organizations are more in need of is the long term four+ hour a week people for multiple years. It’s usually pretty easy to plug in.

It also helps if you’re in a church. Ours usually has five or six volunteer activities in the mill at a time for various organizations. The church takes care of the training and the bodies, so orgs just come to them and they can whip out a crew. Local marathon, parade organizing, stuff like that in addition to the more typical “churchy” stuff like homeless dinners and clothing drives. This week, we’re helping with a lung cancer 5k, a group that winterizes homes for older people and fundraising for the homeless Thanksgiving dinner. I think there are a couple of other fundraising drives as well and we’re doing something for the local Arts Walk, but I can’t recall what. My wife is part of that, so I probably need to ask her.

As another poster said, I think it’s because the people taking phone calls and applications are volunteers themselves.

I have had an ongoing issue volunteering with a local non-profit. I went to their office, did the preliminary paperwork and orientation process, supposedly got on their volunteer list, and then only heard from them once. I’ve tried following up with them multiple times both via phone and email, to no avail.

Take a look here: https://www.volunteermatch.org/

You can filter by your skills, virtual or local, cause, etc.

School parent groups are always in need of bodies. I started while my kiddoes were in school. We had several non-parents working with us. Though it’s usually grunt work. Hard, hot and dirty. Library’s always need help. It’s good clean fun.

I do some volunteering. I have found that you can research organizations and events online, but showing-up in person at an event means you WILL get to do something - these organizations would rarely turn someone away who wants to help. Once you have done one event with a group, you will learn about others they are doing as well.

Just a WAG on the summer camp place, but since school is back in session, their need for volunteers may have dropped, or the volunteer coordinator took a much needed vacation while the weather is still nice and many summer camps are over for the year…again, just guessing.

On the Red Cross, at least the one by me, the volunteer coordinator is often overworked and underpaid. Meetings, classes, organizing can keep them away from their desks for weeks at a time. (friend of mine did it for several years). If you wanted to contact him, it was easier to email him as he could check those anywhere, but voicemails could only be checked in the office, (very old phone system). I do know that the Red Cross by me has volunteer positions in the office all the time though.

Volunteering in general has become a lot of hassle for many places. Depending on what you are doing or who you are working with, there are criminal record checks etc. Most of the places require the person wanting to volunteer to do the leg work and pay the fee for those checks. I’m not trying to dissuade you from volunteering, just be ready to jump through some hoops if you are serious about doing it. I have volunteered at various places for several years and have learned that once you get in somewhere, your name will spread and you will get offers for a lot more, just stay patient and persistent and you will get in somewhere.

In the organization that I volunteer with the most, it’s because there isn’t a volunteer coordinator. There should be. Everyone knows that we need one - but we need other things more and more urgently.
Same with volunteers. Getting back to people and getting them scheduled is important, but it is less important than the daily tasks of keeping the operation running and the lights on. And while having volunteers would make it easier to get everything done, getting volunteers takes time away and so you end up in a vicious circle. But it’s great when a volunteer makes it through.
Send them a reminder and ask again. Or, just show up. If you appear at our door, you’re likely to be handed a few tasks. If you leave a message, we’ll get back to you eventually, but it may take some time.

I’ve experienced the same thing. We had a local organization that actually disbanded because they couldn’t get volunteers - and this was why! I mean, if you don’t want people who can donate TIME to work for you, don’t solicit them.

I can relate to this completely. I was volunteering at a place for a while and I just got fed up one day and left early after one of the other volunteers just would not drop an issue that I was perfectly fine to agree to disagree on. I just sort of flamed out of there. I was just getting really fed up with the place. Most of my intentions in volunteering were sincere efforts to help people; I used to be broke all the time and at some points in the past I was helped by various volunteers at various organizations, so I wanted to return the favor now that I’m flush - karma and what not.

Anyhow I just assumed I was one of those crazies that was not really a good fit for the place - but it turns out they really liked the things I did there so they want me to come back. I’m a little torn - flattered for sure - but also torn. The environment seemed kind of toxic, sort of a lot of griping between people about how to do things, which I kind of got caught in the middle of. I can’t say I acted maturely in the situation, that would be a lie.

I was left wondering the same thing as the OP; why is it so hard to volunteer?

Most def. They’re not professional level organisations with trained personnel in specific roles. It’s kind of random. I organised volunteers for quite a while and had really very high level people in a variety of basic roles, mostly because that’s what they wanted to do with their voluntary time. Other people are the reverse, they volunteer for higher status and social capital. It gets topsy-turvey.

I volunteered, turned up, did a shift, nobody seemed to be in charge, nobody scheduled anything. That was that.