What are some of your guaranteed positive return on investment (ROI) when you strategically volunteer?
An excellent way to land a job at a nonprofit is to volunteer for the organization. You will get the opportunity to learn about its culture and make sure that you are comfortable with the management style of the nonprofit. Others in your work environment will learn how much you care and can bring to the organization. I know a woman named Megan who loves horses. Megan decided to volunteer at Ironstone Farms where horses are used to help kids with disabilities. After Megan had volunteered for the organization for three years, she was offered a brand new position as Director of Development. I would argue that she landed the position because her years of devoted volunteer work showed that she had a true passion for the organization’s mission. I have seen people get hired from volunteering in as little as six weeks and as much as six or more years. The most important thing is to be volunteering with an organization whose mission really inspires you, whether or not it leads to paid work with that particular nonprofit.
To meet a business associate (Network)
Where did you make your last important business connection? Did you immediately have a sense of trust for that person and his business? The more that business associates trust one another, the better collaboration can take place. I met Paul Hutchison of Hutchinson Consulting, with whom I currently run trainings workshops, while volunteering at Career Collaborative. I also met my current marketing consultant, Melissa of MGD Design, while volunteering at a nonprofit supper program last year. I felt sure that they would be individuals I could trust, especially since we met at a places where volunteers give of themselves without expecting to get any material benefit in return.
To meet new friends and build social trust
It can be hard to meet new people or build social trust quickly when you are new in town or have just moved across the city. If you are out of work or have fragile social connections, find a place to volunteer. Volunteering is an excellent way to get out of the house and meet some great like-minded people. I have had the pleasure of making some wonderful friends while volunteering. Whether the work is just for the day or longer-term on a board, when you are volunteering for a cause that is near and dear to your heart, you often meet people with your values. I have known people who have met their roommate, even their soul mate, while doing volunteer work that was powered by a shared passion and trust.
One of the major hurdles that many people encounter in their careers is that they have not kept a detailed record or database of their professional network. Volunteering for a local nonprofit can be an excellent way to grow your contacts in the community where you live or work, thus building your civic engagement. The larger the network, the more people can help you, and the more people you can help.
To sharpen your old skills
Do you have an old skill or two that you no longer use in your current job? Volunteering can help you sharpen your old skills, whether they be in event management, bookkeeping, fundraising, marketing or even painting. Volunteering your time and skills to a nonprofit that you feel drawn to, and that could use your help and expertise, can lead to valuable experience in a specific area.
To teach someone a new skill
What skill or body of knowledge can you pass on to someone else? Whether it be teaching a cooking class to a youth group, helping someone to learn English, or communicating your knowledge of computer programs, your skills can go a long way to make a difference in someone else’s life. You may find that when you teach someone a new skill, you learn the material at a deeper level. Some say when you teach once you actually learn twice. When you volunteer in this way, you will also be building your self confidence and self-esteem.
To bring more joy into your life (Self-Gratification)
“Where there is love there is life.” –Mohandas Gandhi
Think back to your last volunteer experience. Did a fellow volunteer, the volunteer coordinator, or perhaps a client of the nonprofit smile at you and thank you for your assistance? When you smiled back, did you get a great feeling of purpose? Serotonin is wonderful chemical released in the brain that gives you a “happy” feeling, and it seems to help keep our moods under control by helping with sleep, calming anxiety, and relieving depression. During all my years of volunteering, I have always felt a lot of joy. Even if you are tired after a long day of volunteer work, chances are you will feel happier with higher levels of serotonin because you have helped someone!
To improve your health
Research has demonstrated that stressful living causes excess weight gain and has other adverse effects on your health. By building your self-esteem, your confidence, your love, and your joy, you will discover how to live a less stressful life and overcome unhealthy habits. We have all heard that the buildup of stress can be unhealthy, to the point of being life-threatening. When you feel better about yourself and are truly grateful for what you have, you are less likely to eat the wrong foods or have too much to drink. When your heart is full, you will be less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors. Research has also shown that when you are more positive, it actually helps lower your blood pressure and strengthen your body in many other ways. Volunteering has many positive after effects including improved physical and mental health. A sense of purpose and belonging have also been shown to increase happiness and decrease depression. If you volunteer regularly, you will be on a path to living a less stressful life and having a healthier mind and body because of it.