I recently ran into a friend and we spent a considerable amount of time discussing his dread over a new volunteer related project. His executives were setting goals to increase employee volunteer hours within each of his departments through targeted tracking. What did that really mean? They wanted verifiable hours and community projects attended by each employee. After a few minutes, we decided to have lunch and talk about a few different ways to potentially make the project appealing to the employees. Steering the conversation to engagement opposed to being a directive would be key. Two primary questions were my friend’s biggest initial obstacles: Why should they volunteer? Why should they provide a service without being reimbursed? Two very short questions needing longer, reasoned answers.
We had to determine the true value of volunteering your time. Should volunteering be measured in a monetary way? Most people would say “no” and emphasize volunteering is not about money. They would say volunteering is about helping other individuals and a larger community through personal giving. At the same time, skills used for specific volunteering are written off as tax deductions by both corporations and non-profits. So which scenario is most feasible in perfect world? It often depends on the individual motivation.
People volunteer for a variety of reasons. Many individuals use the experience to acquire new skills, dip their toes for potential career changes by networking with new people or even hope to use the experience as documentation to show value. The majority of volunteers simply want to give back to their community, help a friend or promote a cause they find worthwhile. Now if your motivations remain financially driven? View volunteering as an investment within yourself for future gains. Either way, your time spent is rarely without value.
We decided to frame the number of topics around the upcoming football season and volunteer program “kickoff”. There would be 7 topics and if they were each understood, we could score the proverbially touchdown in communicating the project objectives. So what did we learn?
Earn or develop a new skill
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Volunteering is a great opportunity to discover and develop new skills. It’s never too late to learn new skills and there’s no reason why you should stop adding to your knowledge base. Planning and/or implementing fundraising events can develop goal setting, planning and budgeting skills. Supervising and/or training other volunteers will help to develop supervisory and training skills. These are real world examples of skills that can enhance a career.
Be part of your community
“Man is not an island unto himself.” – Anonymous
We sometimes take for granted the community that we live and interact with each day. Individuals and communities depend on each other for growth of things such as commercialism are seeing traditional values being disregarded. Communities are suffering due to the growth of secular societies but at the same time we can really bridge that expanding gap through volunteering. Volunteering is ultimately about helping others and having an impact on people’s well being. What better way is there to connect with your community and give a little back? As a volunteer, you certainly return to society some of the benefits that society gives you.
“Next month will be here in 30 days. What are you going to do with it?” – Jack Welch
On a very fundamental level, volunteering is about giving your time, energy and skills without asking for anything in return. Unlike many things in life there is choice involved in volunteering your time and energies. As a volunteer you are personally making a decision to contribute on your own accord, hopefully free from pressures applied from others. Judging from personal experience, volunteers tend express a sense of achievement and motivation with those feelings ultimately generated from a personal desire and enthusiasm to help. It may be true that no one person can solve the world’s problems, but what you can do is make your small corner of the world a better place.
New Interests and Hobbies
“One thing led to another and I just couldn’t stop thinking about baseball.” – Michael Jordan
Sometimes we slip into the “rat-race” of life and finding opportunities to volunteer can give an emotional escape to everyday routines and re-balance our lives. Finding new interests and hobbies from volunteering can be energizing and fun. The energy and sense of fulfilment brought to each project can carry over to a work situation and possibly help to relieve tensions and develop new perspectives on old situations. You can strengthen your personal/professional mission and vision by exploring opportunities and expanding your horizons.
“I really didn’t want to editorialize on-air because it wasn’t being done.” – Walter Cronkite
Volunteering is a wonderful way to enhance life experiences. Whether building a home or mailing fliers to raise awareness for local charities, you will experience the real process through hands-on work. This understanding helps to establish that volunteers can do almost anything through an infinite number of volunteer opportunities. For example, its possible to now volunteer in developing countries and experience the direct impact of your actions on the most vulnerable communities in the world. The opportunity for impact really is unlimited in today’s world.
Diversifying Your Circle
“How did Nixon win? I don’t know anyone that voted for him.” – Pauline Kael (attributed)
Volunteering brings a diverse range of people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Volunteering also offers a treasure trove of networking opportunities. Not may you develop lasting personal and/or professional relationships, but it’s also a great way to learn about people from different walks of life, environments and industries outside of your experiences. You can never tell who you will meet or what new information you will learn and what impact this could have on your life. There is personal growth to be found in networking.
Paint and Frame Your Picture
People pay attention to your life outside the environment in which they directly interact with you. Volunteering reflects and paints a broader picture while providing examples of your commitment, dedication and interests. Show people what you are passionate about and maybe, quite possibly, you will inspire them too.