The Volunteer Guide You Need to Read
Offering your time through volunteering is a wonderful gift that you can give to an organization and individuals within your community. It is common that many companies today offer paid volunteer hours to employees, so it has never been easier to log some time and make a difference!
Volunteering is something that is very close to my heart and was an activity that helped me to grow in my new community when I moved to college and grow in my career over time. As I’ve learned, volunteering can be a win-win for those you are helping and for you. It can also help you discover what you’re passionate about.
After reading this post, you are going to know how truly important volunteering your time and resources is and be able to spot ways to grow yourself in the process.
Create Stability Where It’s Needed
When I started volunteering, I engaged heavily with one organization that focused on children. I spent several years with this organization. Over that amount of time, I realized how important it is to a community to have volunteers who continuously show up.
If you really want to make a difference, show up and be ready to jump in and help. This is more valuable than you will ever know. When I moved into the role of volunteer management, I realized how common it is that people don’t show up or they show up with no consistency at all.
My first volunteer management role was at an elementary school and as with most volunteer opportunities I’ve encountered, females were the largest contributors. In this case, I had one male volunteer who showed up some of the time and the boys in my classroom were crazy about him. Everyone wants to have leaders they can relate to!
Some volunteers will never know the impact they truly have and the load they make lighter by showing up.
Throughout other volunteer management roles, I’ve discovered that volunteers who show up consistently also can eventually help with managing other volunteers if they have an interest in doing so. This is huge! They know their stuff and there are opportunities for growth with people who show initiative.
Remember, you are making a difference with every visit!
Make New Connections
One important thing that volunteering can help you do is get to know people in your community. Especially if you are new to the area! The more people you know, the faster you will feel at home.
There are opportunities to meet people that you work alongside at every volunteer shift. These people are great because you instantly have something in common and will have many collaboration opportunities which will help you bond even quicker! You will get to know these people the best.
Another way that volunteering helps you make connections is through networking. As I’ve learned over my years, there are so many people who value charity organizations and you will run into them practically all over. Making a connection with someone over a charity that you value is a quick way to get to know them.
As you become more involved with your chosen organization and grow into new roles, you will begin to be able to utilize your connections to create collaboration opportunities with other organizations. By this time, you will have built up a pool of connections and will be able to spot some good fits.
Become involved with an organization and learn their story and how you fit into it and you will be meeting new people all over town in no time.
Build Your Skills
As I’ve mentioned, volunteering can absolutely be a two-way street and can be used to help you build your skill set or discover new skills. This can spill over to your career and future opportunities over time.
One important thing that I have done to build new skills through my volunteer opportunities is to take on new opportunities. Don’t only do what you already know or what you are great at. You may continue to build that skill but that will be about it and a perfect development opportunity will be wasted.
Be aware that you may also get pressure from people to work on what you’re already skilled at. Keep this in mind and use your own judgement based on your needs.
My background is in finance but since I started volunteering, I’ve been able to build skills in the areas of volunteer management, developing curriculum, writing newsletters, public speaking, fundraising, organizational assessments, community outreach and scholarships. Notice that none of this has to do with my professional background. I also wouldn’t have realized how much I love organizational assessments and strategy without expanding my skills in this way.
Diversifying your skills help give you the ability to problem solve, exercise your growth mindset and grow your leadership skills which will give you confidence to keep reaching new heights in other areas of your life.
Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to new opportunities and once you do, watch your skill set and confidence grow!
Land Future Opportunities
When I was still in college and trying to get out of working the dreaded retail jobs, I utilized my volunteering to land new opportunities.
If you find yourself in a similar position or are wanting to change your career path to one that includes philanthropy, this could be a great way to do it.
Make connections where you are volunteering to get wind of any open opportunities that may be coming up or if they know of any opportunities at other places. After you have been volunteering for a while, you will have shown what your skills are, that you are flexible in building your skill set, problem solving and your personality. Keep putting your best foot forward and this will help you land something great.
My first volunteer opportunity led me to a leadership position in college focused on community improvement and I had the chance to lead an after school program and recruit volunteers. That opportunity led me to an AmeriCorps position with a local bigger name organization. After my term was up with AmeriCorps, I found a position with that organization. This position was flexible with my school schedule and paid more than my retail job.
Bonus! After a while and after working on your branding and messaging to others, you will begin to be thought of for opportunities that come up.
You would be amazed at how many times these experiences have been asked about and highlighted in professional job interviews. People really do like to know what your interests are and get to know more about you and your possible contributions to the work environment.
Treat your volunteer opportunities as a possible job pathway and you will be able to utilize those opportunities to land future job prospects.
It’s Up to You
Volunteering is a worthwhile way to directly affect the community you live in. There is always work that needs to be done and the more hands involved, the lighter the workload!
You can make a major difference by showing up and being ready to get to work.
I hope you’ve also learned through this post that volunteering doesn’t have to be a one-way street and that you can benefit from it as well and it’s okay to do so. You can make connections that can help you and your organization, build your skill set and utilize everything you’ve learned to land future opportunities.
Find a project that you are interested in and get to work!
What are some of your best volunteering opportunities? Share with us below in the comments.
Brandon and Cristal