Recently, I’ve returned to a lot of volunteering in bigger organizations. I’ve always volunteered in one form or another but coming to work with bigger organizations has been positive. Larger organizations are quite different in scope and carry a totally different energy than smaller endeavors.
However, no matter where I volunteer, everyone has an open heart – they are volunteering. Their language is different, their approach is much softer and, despite the fact that many if not most use it as an opportunity to “sell themselves”, there is a difference how people connect in a volunteer setting.
Volunteer for Organizations You Like and Respect
I volunteer for organizations whose work I respect. I believe it’s important because if I can’t respect them, what am I doing volunteering?
The authentic volunteers can easily be separated from those volunteers who are in it for the “appearance or prestige”. Being strategic for career development by volunteering is a smart thing to do but I believe enjoying the experience is also equally important otherwise the time and energy invested may have some poor returns if you are not loving the experience.
The benefits are tremendous personally and professionally:
a) It’s a good feeling giving of my time to help support the efforts of the organization engaged to support a need in the community.
b) I meet tremendous people from all walks of life. We can see each other at our best – we are, after all, in the same boat – giving our time, talents and energy for no financial reward! We’re here to play albeit with a serious note.
c) Conversations begin spontaneously and with great grace since most volunteers treat one another very well.
d) We all have so much fun even if we are working very hard and as tired as a toddler who has run all day! We keep going until the job is done and we laugh about it!
e) Opportunities arise to practice conflict resolution, appeasing unhappy customers, and soothing frazzled nerves. We need to think on our feet and run like mad sometimes or help where we can only do our best under the circumstances.
f) If there are skills I want to acquire, I can find occasions to learn them or practice those I love. Right now, I’m volunteering as a presenter for Vantage and using my knowledge and skills to help organizations and individuals involved in the non-profit world to make their lives and contributions easier with tools and information. It helps me to hone my skills as a presenter – you’re forgiven a lot of missteps when you’re volunteering! What a great learning opportunity.
g) I make some new acquaintances and develop some new friends.
h) I learn about new things and experiences which I may have never otherwise known. Amazing the collective brain of human kind!
i) It feels good – that’s the bottom line – it feels good or I don’t do it. At least, volunteering, I don’t “have” to do anything – it’s a pure choice. What a sense of freedom!
I hope you will consider volunteering very soon if you’re not already. Look around. There are many opportunities to volunteer — sports, the performing arts, the visual arts, fundraising events of all description, disease research, disabled – tons of opportunities – have fun!