08/09/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Be A Kickass Volunteer

A volunteer, by definition, positively serves and improves our community. A little birdie told me that some volunteers prefer to laze around and play Candy Land instead of getting any real work done. I assume that these people believe that since they are volunteering, they are automatically helping and consequently forget to put genuine sweat into their work.

Is it possible to have your peacock feathers a bit too fully displayed and misdirect your admirable intentions? I posed the following questions to a bunch of my cronies who have years of experience in the non-profit sector: What makes a first-rate volunteer? What makes a helplessly high-maintenance volunteer? How can you use your skills to be a super-hero volunteer?

I'll be bold enough to guarantee that my grass-roots amigos can direct you down the most direct boulevard to becoming a kick-butt volunteer.

Jennifer Beahrs, a Teach for America alumnus, also volunteered as an educational director teaching children living in poverty in India:

Good volunteers take their work as seriously as they would if they were getting paid; bad volunteers think that as long as they do something, they're a big help. This results in inconsistent commitments and disappointed people who have to rely on volunteers who don't show up.

Good volunteers are doing it because they believe in the mission ... bad volunteers are doing it because it looks good on their resume (or because they have the hots for another volunteer).

Good volunteers "know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em" (according to Kenny Rogers, The Gambler) ... they know when to "step up" to responsibility as needed and when it's time to "step down" a bit to let someone else make a decision.

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