Volunteering Volunteering in India

Volunteering- Issues and Concerns

As part of our work to reinvent iVolunteer and its offerings we had a small brainstorming session in the iVolunteer ( Delhi  where some of our key people were asked to come out with issues and concerns that NGOs face regarding volunteering. They were asked to spend 10 minutes thinking about it and then put everything on a email.

Since this was so top of the mind that some really interesting perspectives came up which I feel are better shared through a blog post.

Getting and Placing Volunteers

  1. Not many NGOs have a data base which they can access to find volunteers.
  2. Matching Skill Set – Even if these NGOs find volunteer at times it does not match the skill set. For eg One of our partner  is looking for a volunteer who can help them in book-keeping. The NGO is getting volunteers but not  commerce graduate.
  3. Communication – They don’t have the necessary means to contact Volunteers or advertise there requirements.
  4. Many NGO under-estimate the strength of volunteers ( never tried to look for volunteers, they never found value in it)
  5. NGO don’t match the skills of volunteer and opportunity. (At times NGO have an opportunity and they give it to any volunteer)
  6. NGO itself don’t know the requirement. (For instance a partner organisation is working for child education for years, but they don’t have a database which show the change they have brought/ No. of student they have benefited etc)
  7. Huge forms to be filled. which de-motivates the volunteer.
  8. Time gap between being orientated and beginning volunteering. (Some NGO’s interact with voluneer and then ask them to wait for months, almost all volunteers )
  9. NGOs don’t have specific person to manage volunteers. so, at times volunteers are lost don’t know whom to contact.

Working with Volunteers

  1. Commitment of Volunteers – Most of the NGOs face the same issues where in they get Volunteers but they don’t stick for long
  2. Coordinating with Volunteers – Because of the limited human resource co-ordination with the volunteer becomes difficult. One NGO has a long list of volunteers and are managed by only one person.

Concerns of Volunteers

  1. Readiness to absorb new perspectives (I want a performance appraisal form, don’t ask me to think whether I need a formal assessment system )
  2. Lack Clarity of what exactly they need help in.
  3. They are all over the place lack focus
  4. Responsiveness is poor which causes them to lose interest

Issues that NGOs are facing in terms of volunteers

  1. Attracting volunteers: Many NGOs are not aware that there are various communication channels through which, volunteers can be sourced.
  2. Retaining volunteers/Commitment issues: Although volunteers are sometimes committed, NGOs sometimes put up different expectations from them. For eg: One organisations expected volunteers coming in to design projects which involved ‘all’ the old people of the house. This was practically impossible as old people have their own interests and it is not possible to force them for a particular thing. Ashish, our regular volunteer, is facing problems going there, since the NGO head never seems to be happy with his work there. Sometimes the difference in expectations from the volunteers’ as well as the NGOs side brings about retention issues.
  3. No specific person in the NGO, available, to guide or monitor the volunteer. NGOs are usually so busy with their projects that sometimes they do not get the time out for the particular volunteering opportunity. For eg: In an opportunity with one partner , one of our volunteers agreed to take Spoken English Classes for the teachers there. However, since the NGO itself was very busy with an ongoing project, they lost the interested volunteer, due to time constraints.
  4. Distance: Volunteers are not attracted to NGOs that are not connected with Metro stations or is difficult to spot while travelling or are away from the main roads.
  5. Designing projects for volunteering: Many of the NGOs do not know on how exactly a volunteering opportunity looks like and what skills are required in the project.
  6. NGO’s hesitate to ask more help or be critical about the volunteer’s work.
  7. NGO’s find that the issues they presented to volunteers are not being addressed in the order of priority as expected
  8. NGO’s are apprehensive whether people from corporates will be able to help them in strategic issues as the context is very different.
  9. Find no “out of the box” solution coming from the volunteers
  10. Feel how can an outsider advise them on strategy of their org
  11. Time constraints : this is at both sides, since it the founder/ CEO engaging with the panel  even the  NGO is not able to give much time.

I saw tremendous value of doing this exercise with our staff members. It gives us a good sense of what is happening at the forefront of what we are trying to do from the point of view of the our staff members.

We as an organisation are taking an important turn as we reinvent ourselves to find answers to some of the issues raised above. One such step  is the creating what we call impact projects which find the right volunteer for every organisation.

Watch this space as we share the journey that we take to deliver even more to our partner organisations through the power of volunteering.

By Rahul Nainwal

Rahul Nainwal, Co founder iVolunteer
Co-Founder India Fellow social leadership program
Co-Founder, UnLtd Delhi

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