I would like to dedicate this article to volunteerism and its benefits. I have donated a considerable amount of time and skills to various causes ever since I graduated from college. While the organizations I’ve volunteered for benefited from my time and talent, I’ve significantly benefited from each experience. In the past few weeks, I’ve had more than my usual share of volunteer commitments. I’ve had to take some time off from work to attend the events I volunteered for—this made me take a step back and wonder why I was making this extra effort. After some reflection, I realized that I’m doing the right thing and volunteering is indeed a good use of my time and skills.
Before we go into details on volunteering, let’s look at the definition of volunteerism according to Dictionary.com
the policy or practice of volunteering one's time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially in one's community.
The power of volunteering cannot be underestimated. According to the UN Volunteers website, volunteers are motivated by values like justice, equality and freedom. It further states that a society which supports and encourages volunteering is likely to be a society that promotes its citizens’ well-being.
According to the UN Volunteers website, more than 1 billion people volunteer globally, the majority of them serve in their own countries. Volunteers are the backbone of many organizations and social and political movements. They are more likely to develop civic skills and will give more importance to public interest and have a higher likelihood of being politically active. This is a fitting summary by UNV regarding volunteerism and its benefits!
In the field of volunteering there is a new concept ‘Skill Based Volunteering (SBV),’ this means specialized skills of volunteers will be leveraged to strengthen the infrastructure of non-profits and help them successfully achieve their missions (Corporation for National and Community Service). Organizations such as Points of Light Institute, Taproot Foundation, and the Corporation for National and Community Service are some companies that are engaged in the SBV movement. I had personally signed up to help some nonprofits as a skill based volunteer. A volunteer and nonprofit matching company (Catchafire) matched me to a few non-profits. Working on these projects was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had and it also helped me make some good connections.
The topic of SBV warrants an entire blog post, perhaps I will explore that in a future article; right now I would like to touch on some of the benefits of volunteering.
Making New Friends: I remember moving to a new city (I’ve moved many times!) and wanted to get to know people and get engaged in the local community. A friend directed me to a non-profit for child rights, I started helping out and I immediately had a circle of friends who made me feel at home.
Gain Experience in a New Skill: This is where the SBV opportunities would come in handy. If you are looking to gain experience in a particular skill, the best thing to do would be to work on some projects for non-profits that would give you give you hands on experience on those skills. This can easily go on your resume and if you make a good impression on the non-profit employees, they would be happy to serve as your reference.
Find New Opportunities: Professional network associations offer a wealth of collective knowledge and great professional connections. This is a great way to find new opportunities and push yourself outside your professional comfort zone. Courtney Pfleger, AMA Houston Communications Team Volunteer says:
Since joining the AMA Houston chapter, and volunteering among some amazingly talented individuals, I am inspired to seek out new opportunities to learn and push myself outside my current marketing comfort zone.
Create a Professional Network: If you would like to create a robust professional network in your industry or a particular field, then volunteering for that cause is the way to go. Jahmal Clemons, AMA Houston Communications Team Volunteer, who recently moved to Houston, says:
The Houston advertising community is one of the largest and most dynamic in the country. Volunteering is one of the best ways to jump in and start becoming part of it.
Volunteering as a Second Nature: Volunteering has become part of my life. I have set aside a few hours every week towards my volunteer duties. I have a job and personal obligations, however, volunteering is still part of my life and I benefit from these experiences every single day. For instance, I was able to find interviewees for my Swiss Army Knife, Day in the life of Digital Marketer and Auditing articles through my volunteer connections.
In conclusion, I would like to say that volunteering can only be beneficial to you. You can get involved at any phase in your life towards a cause you are passionate about. Once you volunteer for a nonprofit of choice, it will be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life. Whether it is helping at the Houston Food Bank, LDS Peanut Butter Cannery, helping victims of natural disaster or volunteering for a professional organization, every effort counts! Get involved in your community and share your experience.
I am a marketing professional with more than 10 years’ experience. I currently work as a Design QC Specialist contractor with Chevron Creative Studio. I have worked in industries such as non-profit, healthcare, oil and gas, real estate, technology, education and consumer goods.
I recently earned my MBA from the University of Houston, BAUER School of Business with a focus in Marketing Analysis. Prior to that, I earned an Associates in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of Houston and Masters in English Literature from Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, India.
I was born and raised in India but now consider Houston my home. I am Membership Officer with Prospanica-Houston chapter and Director of Special Events-Marketing with American Marketing Association-Houston chapter.
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