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Volunteering with Mental Illness: 6 Tips to Get You Started

Posted By Lisa Robinson, January 24, 2018
Updated: January 23, 2018
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

 

As I write this, it’s blue Monday—the saddest day of the year. Winter weather and shorter days, especially in January, can have a drastic impact on our mood. Living with mental illness myself, I agree—this time of year is far from easy.

So what’s the good news?

It’s known that community can be an antidote for feeling low. And what better way to connect with others than through volunteering? However, finding a volunteer position can be overwhelming, especially if you’re already feeling down. Knowing this, I’ve put together six tips that can take your volunteer search from blah to yah!

 

Start by listing your skills

Hey you! Yes, you. You have skills, lots of them. So go ahead and write them down. What have you learned from your experiences? You’d be surprised at how valuable your skills are. Take a few minutes to reflect on what a great asset you’ll be as a volunteer.

Determine your intentions

Now that you know that you’ll be a valuable volunteer (see your list!) it’s time to think about what YOU want out of volunteering. Are there any skills you want to learn? A specific neighbourhood where you’d like to give back? Or a cause you feel inspired by? Your answers will help narrow down which roles to apply for. Remember, you should get just as much out of your volunteer experience as you put in. You deserve it!

Find the right fit

Volunteer roles are different everywhere you go. Some are really formal and require a big commitment. If you don’t feel ready, that’s okay! You can always explore other opportunities, there are hundreds of non-profits in the city! Find a volunteer role with expectations that motivate you, not overwhelm you. Not sure you’ve found a good fit? Ask to try out the role. You never know until you’ve given it a shot!

Share your intentions

Remember those intentions you created? Share them. Share them with someone in your social network. Share them with (potential) volunteer managers. By sharing these intentions you’ll get support. And hey, you might even find a volunteer manager that adapts a role for you.

Share your needs

Just as important is to share what your needs are. I’ve personally found it helpful to talk to my volunteer supervisor about living with mental illness. If nothing else, I don’t feel like I have to hide when I’m having a bad day. At best, they might work with you to determine how they can support you in your role. Remember, this is your information to share. Only share if you are comfortable.

Follow your gut

It’s important to listen to your gut feelings. Are you achieving what you intended to in a volunteer role? If not, then don’t do it. But don’t give up either. There is an opportunity out there for everyone!

 

As you embark on your volunteer journey, remember you have valuable skills to give. Consider volunteering this winter, and throughout the year, to feel more connected to others. Explore hundreds of opportunities in Toronto using our volunteer opportunities database.

 

Tags:  Give Back  Help finding a volunteer position  how do I get a volunteer position  How to start volunteering  Make a Difference  Mental Health  Questions about volunteering  Respect  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  Volunteerism  Ways to volunteer 

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Why Do I Need to Apply to Volunteer?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, December 20, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

 

“Ask Us” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. Got a burning question? We're here to help!

Submit your question to info@volunteertoronto.ca - subject line: Ask Us


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hey Volunteer Toronto,

I want to volunteer and give my time in the community. I don’t understand why I need to fill in an application form, attend an interview and possibly do a police check. Isn’t it enough that I want to give my time to help?

Margaret

 


 

Hi Margaret,

Thanks so much for your question. It is a good one. And I’m happy to hear you want to support your community.

Volunteers help non-profits achieve their missions and create change in the community. Majority of non-profits will have an application process to ensure that they find the right volunteer for the role. This benefits the non-profit and the community as they ensure that the person has the right skills, experience and personality for the position. This can also benefit you as a volunteer as you’ll be placed in a role that suites your skills and interests.

By asking for application forms, resumes or cover letters the non-profit will learn more about your skills and experience related to the volunteer position. Interviews especially are a great way for them to learn more about your passion for the cause, your interest in the role and your strengths.

If you want to volunteer to help seniors, children, people with disabilities or others who might be considered vulnerable you will be asked to do a police check. The non-profit does this to make sure that they aren’t taking on a volunteer who has a history of hurting people. The non-profit may also ask for references which are other people who can give feedback on your skills and working style.

Here are a few examples to further explain:

  • Petra would like to be a Social Media Volunteer. To apply for the position she needs to send in a resume and cover letter, showcasing examples of social media posts and marketing she’s done before. She'll also need to attend an interview. The non-profit takes these steps to learn more about Petra’s experience and skills to ensure that Petra would represent the non-profit well online.
  • Mark wants to volunteer as a Presenter. For the role he needs to fill in an application form, come to an interview where he does a mock presentation, answer questions about his presentation and then provide two references. The application process includes these steps so the non-profit can learn about the volunteer’s experience, make sure Mark is a good presenter and see if Mark can answer questions well. They also want to speak to other people who know Mark in order to confirm his skills.
  • Rose would like to volunteer as a Friendly Visitor and provide companionship to seniors in their homes. Rose has to send in an application form that includes why she wants this role, she'll also go to two interviews and file a police reference check. This is because the organization wants to make sure that Rose is a friendly and caring person, who will connect well with a senior, and won’t do anything to steal from, harm or hurt the senior she’s visiting.

Margaret, I hope this information is helpful for you. Don’t let the application process stop you from seeking out a great volunteer opportunity. And remember the process exists to make sure you’re a great fit for the role and the role is a great fit for you!

All the best is seeking out a meaningful volunteer opportunity.

 

Tags:  applying to volunteer  Ask Kelly  Frequently Asked Questions  how do I get a volunteer position  How long does it take to find a volunteer position  How to give back  How to start volunteering  how to volunteer  How to volunteer in Toronto  Questions about volunteering  Toronto volunteers  types of volunteer positions  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  Ways to volunteer  What's It Like To Volunteer 

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How Do I Apply to Volunteer if I Don't Have Work Experience?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, January 18, 2016
 "> Ask Kelly Banner

 

“Ask Us” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. Got a burning question? We're here to help!

Submit your question to info@volunteertoronto.ca - subject line: Ask Us



 

Hello Volunteer Toronto,

My name is Jian and I am in grade 10. I want to volunteer and get my 40 hours, but I am unsure where to start especially because I’ve never worked or volunteered anywhere before. What is the best way for me to find a volunteer position? I’ve noticed some places ask for resumes, but since I don’t have any experience, what can I send in?

- Jian


 


Hello Jian,

Thank you so much for your letter and your question! We're really glad to hear you want to volunteer and get your 40 hours! Volunteering can be fun, a great way to meet new people and it could give you some experience to put on your resume. 

The best way for you to start looking for positions is to go to our website at www.volunteertoronto.ca/opportunities and search by Category “1. Suitable for Youth (14-17)”. That will bring up any positions that are looking for youth volunteers. Please know that new positions are being posted every day!

 

 

 

When you find a position title that appeals to you, click on it and you’ll find more information about the position. At the bottom you’ll find a section that says “How to Apply/Contact” follow those instructions to contact the organization directly.

You are right that sometimes in the “How to Apply/Contact” section, an organization will ask for a resume. Since you don’t have any experience, we would encourage you to draft a document that highlights your major achievements, your top skills and the things you are interested in. Or if you’d like to try writing a resume, this article gives some fantastic tips for high school students with no experience. Remember, just because you don’t have formal experience, you still have a lot to offer! Make sure to make it look professional and check for spelling and grammar.

In your application, we encourage you to also include a paragraph or cover letter that explains your interest in the position and the skills you have to offer. Why do you want to volunteer for that organization in particular? What are you great at?

If you need any additional help, Jian, feel free to contact one of our volunteer advisors who will be more than happy to help.

 

Tags:  40 volunteer hours  applying to volunteer  how do I get a volunteer position  how to volunteer  how to write a volunteer resume  Volunteer questions 

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