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Tenure-track professors and nonprofit opportunities: the benefits of volunteering in your community


Nonprofits are multi-dimensional organizations that rely heavily on help from external resources to provide support to the community they serve. One of these key resources is volunteers, who can directly impact a cause through maintaining events, internal affairs, and providing important research developments.

EDUCATION_GROWING_Community Volunteer_children_learning science_school

Volunteers helping the community in which they live can also benefit through personal fulfillment and career advancement. 92% of human resource executives believe that leadership skills are significantly improved through contributing to a nonprofit.1  Community volunteering offers a multitude of professional benefits, areas for growth, and real-life application.

Through volunteer community service, leadership skills are a welcome biproduct of the work being done. The benefits of community service are many, for instance, there are strong leadership skills that can be honed through these experiences, like:

  1. The development of important soft skills: Through strengthening and practicing communication, teamwork, decision-making, and problem-solving.
  2. The ability to adapt to new environments: Volunteer work in charities can offer new perspectives that can be applied to one’s academic career.
  3. Learning how to build professional networks: Volunteers can build their personal network or learn from managing others while on the job.

Says Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, “Volunteerism not only supports the impact of community-based organizations in the places where they serve, but also connects individuals to one another and to the issues facing their community.”2  While benefiting the community through service, volunteers can discover a sense of loyalty amongst team members and create mutually-beneficial relationships.

leadership

92% of human resource executives believe that leadership skills are significantly improved through contributing to a non-profit

Deloitte Impact Survey (2016)

Being a volunteer in your community as an academic involves providing insight, expertise, and valuable research that can make a significant difference to a nonprofit’s success. Nonprofits face setbacks like a lack of resources, understanding of their initiatives, and organizational barriers. By providing reports or organizational direction, volunteers can become an invaluable part of a nonprofit’s success.

EDUCATION_GROWING_Community Volunteer_male_researcher_outdoors_plant

Academics looking to perform research while enjoying community service opportunities also work on the ground for events or through direct community outreach. On average, volunteers like these spend 52 hours a year contributing to their communities.  There are a variety of pillars under which a nonprofit volunteer can serve, from social and legal services to education and healthcare. Within a sector that relates to their current role, academics can lend innovative research pro bono, lead new initiatives like clean-ups or awareness events, or help improve the internal structure of the organization. What’s more, impacting an issue on the ground can provide refreshing insight and a change from the typical day-to-day of an academic.

As a contributor to nonprofit volunteer initiatives, academics can explore personal and professional growth or discover tools to inform their research. They can diversify their specialized output and methods of research and meet like-minded individuals along the way. Volunteering is a mutually-beneficial game, where all involved can pursue greater next steps and continued professional improvement.



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[1] “2016 Deloitte Impact Survey: Building Leadership Skills Through Volunteerism” (2016).   Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/us-deloitte-impact-survey.pdf
[2] Dreyfus, S. (2018). “Volunteerism and US Civil Society.” Retrieved from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/volunteerism_and_us_civil_society
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