Niche Volunteer Roles

Niche volunteer role

The following pages/pages explain how you might obtain a volunteer role in the community. After the planning process undertaken for either a small business or a niche volunteer role you will have defined a few things such as your strengths, assets and interests. Here it is time to use those identified strengths to find what you are looking for.

Designing a Niche volunteer role

To explain how to design a niche volunteering role, here is an example of what other people have done. Please note names have been changed.

Susan is a young woman living in Brisbane and has a diagnosis of Autism. Susan undertook the planning and research stages of this process and came up with this table (this is just a brief version).

Assets table

Strengths Interests Personal Assets Community Assets Possible barriers
Friendly Music Lives in own home Can rent a car from local service if needed Low energy at times
Loving and Kind Colours Owns all furniture Joe – connection at local garden store Concentrate for 2 hours or less
Patient Being with people Has support of family Connections with local support services Only a little speech
Organised Being outdoors A little funding to help get started Sandy – Local cafe owner Needs a a support worker/person
Can count and put things in alphabetical order Viv – Friend and Accountant

From this Susan undertook a brainstorming session with her supporters. This is what they came up with (again a brief version).

Community places/types of businesses Assets that would be useful Possible roles in the workplace
Accountancy business Patient
Being with people
Can count
Can put things in alphabetical order
Gardening centres or conservation centres A little funding
Lives in own home – could use home to grow something if needed
Delivery Can rent a car from local service
Music (can listen)
Support from local services

Because Susan and her supporters were not sure of what types of roles there might be for Susan they decided they would need to contact some of the local places that offered these services. Lets use accountants as the example. They began by listing the people they knew who were accountants. These were:

  • Viv – Friend
  • Accountants at local support services
  • People who they knew that worked in administration jobs
  • Bob – Accountant used by family

In addition to this they googled all the local accountants and wrote them down in a table.

Susan and one supporter then went about contacting them and asking them questions about what sorts of tasks they undertake. Some great questions would be:

  • What tasks are in your workplace that everyone hates doing?
  • What are some tasks that take a long time or that people don’t usually have time to do?
  • Is there any additional services that you would like but are not on offer? (eg. Lunch delivery)
  • What types of Niche tasks do you have that you don’t need a qualification of but that you would like assistance with?

You will also need to design your own questions based upon your own strengths, interests and assets. For Susan an example might be is there anything in your office that requires meticulous organising?

After this information has been found you can then begin to think about which volunteer roles could be suggested. Here is Susan’s example table for an accountancy workplace.

Community places/types of businesses Assets that would be useful Possible roles in the workplace
Accountancy business Patient
Being with people
Can count
Can put things in alphabetical order
Sorting information
Sorting clips or coloured tabs
Waiting for clients at the reception and making them a cup of tea
Keeping people’s spaces organised

Finding an opportunity where this role can be used

Start with your assets and ask them whether they would like some help in their workplaces. If this is not possible then, take your list of local places and begin with those.

When approaching a place about a niche role it is important that you approach them with the following things in mind:

  1. The person with a disability is being presented in the best possible light – eg. Dressed nicely, resume in hand, skills and strengths highlighted
  2. You have the Niche role outlined clearly in your mind and you have planned out what you will say
  3. What will the person with the disability say? If they are non verbal, how can they be included in the pitch
  4. You have thought about what barriers people might put up. eg. We cant have volunteers because of insurance concerns. In this case you may offer to get your own insurance.
  5. Highlight the benefits the person can bring to their workplace

Keeping the niche role and ensuring the role meets it purpose

It is important in any job to evaluate and assess whether it is working for you, and it is the same for volunteer roles. Many people get a volunteer role but it does not last because they have not managed problems that arise. There are many problem solving strategies you can try, most of them are common sense. Here are a few examples of what you might do if problems arise at the workplace:

  • Talk to the staff and see if they need some extra support while the person is there
  • Talk to the staff and seek feedback on how the person is going
  • Get some feedback from the person with a disability. The role may need tweaking a little to keep it a success.

When evaluating a niche role always think “Is this role meeting it’s original purpose?”. If not then it may be time to look for something new. Try not to become stuck in the role because you think there is nothing better. If it is not working there is something better out there, you just have to go looking again!