20 Crucial Questions to Ask Before Working for a Social Good Organization

Added: 06-05-2018

This list-based article focuses on the questions prospective volunteers should ask themselves before volunteering with an organization. Questions target an organization’s long-term investment in a community, how it measures success and if it meets the needs of the community.

voluntourism community research focus measurement volunteers success transparency unskilled Greg Mortenson

Type Reading Time Author Date Source
article 12 minutes NATALIE JESIONKA https://www.themuse.com/
Type Reading Time
article 12 minutes
Author Date
natalie jesionka 2018-06-05 00:00:00 UTC
Key Takeaways
  • Be wary of organizations who prioritize volunteers experience over communities. 
  • How an organization measures its success and represents itself reveals much about its character and values.


This article reviews 20 simple questions to ask oneself when considering joining an organization to volunteer in development work abroad. Jesionka begins by reviewing some high profile cases of fraud or misleading failures in the field of development. She notes how Greg Mortenson and his well-known book Three Cups of Tea was heavily embellished as was the was the life story of human rights activist Somaly Mam. 

The 20 questions are designed as a guide for prospective volunteers trying to identify how or what program they want to be involved with. Some of these thought provoking questions are summarized below: 

5. What services are offered to those communities or individuals? Do they truly meet the needs of the community?
Consider the community you are entering and what they may need, want or specifically not want. Without having a dialogue with the community it is impossible to know how to assist effectively. 

8. Are there ways to document successes besides self-reported “success stories?” Are there any metrics or data that can prove the organization actually achieves results?
Investigate how an organization measures success and look for organizations with transparent and honest stories of their success. 

10. Are there follow-up programs and plans in place to ensure the work is sustainable? Or transitions built in for short-term projects?
Projects without long-term sustainability plans may not have thought through their investment in a community. 

12. How is the organization’s work communicated to the public? To donors?
Overly positive stories should be cause for concern since few, if any, organizations are without failures. If an organization truly does not have any unsuccessful endeavors, they may not be targeting a population in need. 

15. Are personal narratives of others used with permission, accuracy, and respect? Is there a way to prove the stories are true?
Identifying how an organization respects the people they serve says a lot about priorities and values. 

20. Does the organization’s public face measure up to what is going on behind the scenes?
Many established organizations have significant amounts of writing on their organization available. Look for alumni of volunteer programs to respond to questions about a program's methods and ethics.

From https://www.themuse.com/