I have volunteered and helped out a good number of professional, sporting and community groups over the years; up till now I have never really questioned why I do it. I guess it’s just the drive to make a difference. Now with my 2 year stint as the Treasurer of the Australian Web Industry Association coming to a close maybe it’s time to reflect on why I nominate myself for such things and what the benefits of volunteering for your community are:
You know volunteering can give you a lot of valuable varied workplace experience and in some cases open doors for potential employment or alternative career paths your wouldn’t have otherwise have thought of.
Increase your Network
Also you get to work with other people outside your usual sphere of contacts, this in turn allows you to expand your network of contacts, locally and around the world.
I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I did say that volunteering can be extremely rewarding. In some cases you can find yourself leading or involved with projects that you wouldn’t normally ever get the opportunity to do. On completion, you get an immense feeling of satisfaction, usually from producing or contributing to something that a lot of people have got a benefit from. Yeah, it’s a little ego centric. But you do get a buzz – for example knowing that you helped get a lot of people to come to an event, in which they all learnt about the latest techniques. So in a small way you pushed your local community forward.
Pay Your Dues
You get a real sense of giving something back. I really can’t explain this, but it’s like a personal justification, well it is for me anyway. It’s like you have to pay your dues or something like that. Volunteering to a local not-for-profit, and a professional association in a way for me for fills that requirement.
We all have those areas in which we aren’t that confident, if you don’t you’re lying to yourself. Well, I have found with volunteering you often get to work in situations that can help boost your confidence, all while being supported by the organisation of fellow volunteers around you.
Stay on the Edge
You get to ensure that your skills and techniques are on the leading edge of your professional community as you are often associating with like people on the top of their professional careers.
Contribute, stare them down.
No one can look you in the eye at any event or gathering and say “well what have you contributed? Bet it’s nothing, much.” Bit of ego here. Hell yeah. But often you have earned it. This did happen recently to me. It was interesting to see the look on this person’s face when I told them the number of community groups I was activity involved in. In this case I think I may have inadvertently shamed them into rethinking their own contribution to society.
Make a Difference
This may seem silly, but you really do get to make a difference. Often the things that you personally do can make a major difference; even if it’s just to spring board ideas for others to take up and move forward with. Often in professional associations and not-for-profit the resources and opinions of each volunteer are highly valued.
Grow and be Challenged
Working with a group of different people, that you wouldn’t otherwise choose to work with can be challenging. This is frustrating at times, but it’s also fantastic as it makes you learn and grow as a person and not remain just a mindless zombie churning out the 9 to 5. Anything that challenges me is good in my book.
You get to build community and bring people together, especially in some professional communities around Australia that have become fractured over the years. Not looking at you Melbourne. The sense of personal achievement with this is just fantastic.
Hone Disused Skills
Sometimes you have a skill set that just isn’t getting used at work, so why not put it to use with a community or professional association. Say you are good at marketing, but just don’t get to practice the ground roots marketing anymore as you are now in management driving a balance sheet. Well volunteer for a marketing position with a not-for-profit organisation may help keep those skills from going rustly.
Finally you know with the hard work comes a lot of fun, good times, laugher, and often a real sense of comradeship, their isn’t any cliqueness that people often speak of. Just a gratefulness that you are willing to help, and donate your time.
Well that’s my personal list of reasons that I contribute to the my community, be it on a professional or general interest level. I’m a great believer that what you give to the community it will in turn give back to you three fold.
Volunteering doesn’t take much, sometimes its just a few hours a week, if that, and frankly the benefits outweigh any downsides.
So what are you contributing to your community?