If you are considering starting a year of service in the fall and haven't started the process of completing your volunteer application yet - now is a great time to get started. The task may seem daunting, but don't worry, we are here to help. Here are 11 tips to get your started...
1. Remember to Fill Out a Volunteer Profile: The Volunteer Profile form is designed to help our member programs get to know you. Once you complete and submitted your form, programs may contact you directly to speak about their opportunities. The Volunteer Profile form can be found here: https://catholicvolunteernetwork.org/user/register
2. What is Your Ministry?: Ask yourself what type of ministry you want to serve in. With more than 220 programs, there are numerous fields you can serve in including hospital ministry, elderly outreach, social services and education.Spend some time in prayer to see how God is calling you to serve those most in need.
3. Discernment: Be patient with yourself in the discernment process. Figuring out an important life decision like this takes time. Volunteer opportunities are quite plentiful and it can be overwhelming finding the right one for you. In the process, trust that God is with you and has a plan for your life. For advice, talk to trusted friends, family members, and mentors. Likewise, bring the decision to prayer and ask God for guidance.
4. Know Your Needs: Ask yourself what you need in terms of support and nourishment during your time commitment (i.e. your own room, an intentional community, spiritual direction or nature). Additionally, be aware of your standing commitments - whether they are financial, family, or personal. When talking with the staff members of the programs you are applying for, be up front about these needs. They will often be happy to work with you to find the program or position that is the right fit.
5. Use Your Gifts: Everybody has gifts that they can offer to their volunteer program and service site. When looking for the right program for you, think about what you have to offer and what types of things you excel at naturally. For example, if you know you have a talent for working with kids you may want to consider programs that focus on education.
6. What is the Application Process Like?: At the very beginning, be sure you have a good understanding of the whole application process. Find out whether you apply to the program as a whole or do you apply for a specific position? What types of interviews will be involved? When can you expect to have a final decision about your acceptance? Knowing all this from the start will help you move through the process with ease.
7. Deadlines: Double check those application deadlines! Many programs have deadlines in March and April but some ask applications to be submitted as early as December, while other programs accept applications on a rolling basis. It is always helpful to apply as early as possible - programs do fill up quickly!
8. One-on-One: It is always a good idea to talk to a current volunteer if you are considering service. If you don't know a volunteer personally, ask the program if they would put you in touch with one. Or, you can always call the CVN office and talk to a staff member about their service experience (half of our staff is made up of former volunteers!) This conversation will give you a better sense of what the experience of serving in that program will really be like.
9. Bring Those Questions: When contacting a program to ask about their various volunteer opportunities, be sure to have a few questions prepared. Some might include: “What sort of spiritual commitment is there?” and “What does community life look like?” Rest assured that the application process is a two-way dialogue. Programs want to hear your questions as much as they want to ask their own.
10. Be Appreciative: It is always a good idea to thank your program after your interview. A well thought out email or letter can make a big impression in any opportunity you may be seeking.
Good luck with the application process and remember that we are always here to help!