I’ve noticed a hugely positive response when I recap my volunteer experiences to friends and family. Someone always comments "That's so cool that you get to be a part of that event!" This response always surprises me. I am always super excited to tell them how easy it is to get involved and how much fun it is to spend your free-time supporting something you're passionate about. My first word of advice to get involved is to find something you're passionate about, locate an organization that needs assistance, and contact them through their website / give them a call. It’s that simple.
I’ve volunteered for almost 8 years for special, sporting, and art events. Each event requires specific attire that will allow the volunteer to fit in and perform their tasks comfortably. Some events are formal while others require comfortable athletic attire for events outside.
Comfort is very important because of how active you will be. I’ve directed traffic, moved tables, decorated tents, hung signs and banners, handed out swag to crowds, and registered athletes for events....The list goes on and on. Volunteering means long periods of time on your feet and being outdoors.
The most important things besides knowing when and where you're volunteering is OUTFIT, SNACKS, and SUNSCREEN.
Depending on the amount of labor required for an event, sports sandals (that do not cause blistering) or tennis shoes are a great option. Flip Flops are not recommended since there is a constant need for mobility and usually quick getaways if someone needs something.
Two pant options are: breathable athletic capris (not tight) or athletic shorts. Both are comfortable and allow you to move, bend, twist, and run as needed. Yoga pants are not recommended because they are too casual. Events bring in people from all walks of life, try to be as professional as possible in athletic clothing.
The event usually provides a t-shirt to wear. You should show up wearing an undershirt in case you need to make a quick change into the shirt-de-jour. A sports-bra is great for gigs that require running around. Plus, it’s a great place to keep a car key during the day if your athletic pants don’t have pockets.
I recommend pulling hair up under a baseball cap or trying a nice braid on the side to keep your hair out of your face.
It's not always easy to go back to the car for things. I usually only bring a small bag with the essentials. Plus, I I never know if food will be provided. Water is almost always nearby but if your post is on one side of the event, you can expect to do a lot of running back and forth. Being in the sun and sweating makes it of the utmost importance to apply sunscreen and feel comfortable. To stay energized and hydrated I bring the following with me in a small bag:
- Sunscreen stick (liquid sunscreen gets hot and can explode more easily)
- Lip balm with SPF
- Larabar (packed with protein, very filling)
- Water bottle (chilled in the fridge the night before)
- Face wipes to refresh during and after the event
- Deodorant (I recommend wipes or spray since stick deodorant melts in the heat)
- Camera / Phone (if you absolutely need it)
- Business Cards (you will meet random and cool people)
- Baseball Cap
- A good attitude
Every volunteer experience is different but the most important thing to have (besides sunscreen) is a good attitude. Volunteering is hard work sometimes. People are unpredictable, the work is sometimes repetitive, at times boring, but overall it’s a group effort and most people want to facilitate a wonderful event / day!