Use your nonprofit volunteer time to take on a complex project that mirrors something you’ve wanted to do at work.
In addition to learning new skills, you can take on bigger projects than you get to manage at your day job. Use your nonprofit volunteer time to take on a complex project that mirrors something you’ve wanted to do at work. You can then demonstrate your knowledge and successes to your boss and colleagues to show you can handle the demands of a promotion, new project, or other positions of leadership.
Kerwin Dobbins, a program assistant at Drake’s School of Education, showed off the conservation skills he previously learned as an AmeriCorps and NCCC volunteer while using his volunteer time off to participate in the “All Drake University Clean-Up” of downtown Des Moines and other environmental cleanup events. As a result, he earned a spot on the university’s Sustainability Committee, which makes policy recommendations to the university president and the community and assists in their implementation.
While you’re growing your skills, you can also expand your network. Volunteering is a natural way to meet new people and deepen existing relationships. When volunteering solo, you can make new connections that may come in handy in the future. If you’re volunteering with your co-workers, you get to spend quality time with the people you work with off-the-clock.
The relationships Martin has built through her day job and those she’s built through volunteering have strengthened each other, she says. With the Youth Leadership Initiative, she’s even taken high school youth to tour or volunteer with some of the same organizations she interacts with through the Office of Community Engaged Learning & Service.
“By having the opportunity to work with the organizations through different avenues in the community, this helps strengthen our relationship,” she says.
So how do you find a volunteer opportunity that can do all this? First, identify what you’re passionate about. If you’re passionate about improving the circumstances of people experiencing homelessness, for example, you could look for a local homelessness-focused nonprofit group to help.
Then, decide what you want to learn through your contribution. What skills do you want to develop? What abilities do you want to practice? What sorts of people do you want to meet? These questions can guide you towards opportunities that help you reach your goals.
Finally, you have to find the opportunity. Perhaps your university has a department focused on community service, like Drake’s Office of Community Engaged Learning & Service. Or, you can find volunteer opportunities on websites like Volunteer Match or Idealist.
Volunteering is important in itself. It can connect you to your community, improve your well-being, and help you avoid burnout. But with these tips, you can get something back while giving back.