Not all worthy causes come with a multi-million dollar budget. This makes the causes no less worthy or important. It makes the work no less necessary.
Charities, nonprofit organizations (NPOs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must focus the bulk of their funding on helping the recipients of their programs. Most NPOs and NGOs simply do not have the revenue to pay all the people needed to administer their programs and services. Paying all of their workers would mean taking away crucial funding from the organization’s mission.
Volunteers level the playing field. People who care about improving the world around them, or helping those in need, can donate their time and skills to making the visions of NPOs and NGOs a reality. Even if the cause is not the most popular or well-publicised, volunteers can use their power to advance that cause.
When you volunteer, you speak for the causes you care about. Volunteers bring their energy and innovation to invigorate not-for-profit work. Lives can be changed for the better. Necessary and noble work can be done, unfettered by insufficient funds.
But volunteering doesn’t just help the organizations’ causes. Volunteers themselves benefit from their own volunteer work in several ways.
Volunteers have the opportunity to further develop their personal and professional skills. They learn to work with people from different backgrounds, and maybe even different cultures and countries. They expand their social circles, and enrich their knowledge of the world around them. In using their talents and skills to help NPOs and NGOs, volunteers strengthen and develop those skills.
Job seekers, including recent graduates, can bolster their professional profiles with volunteer experience. Not only can volunteering help you sharpen your skills and give your CV a boost, but it can also help you network with other professionals in your field. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, more than 80% of the 202 human resource executives surveyed by professional-services firm Deloitte said they “would be more likely to hire a graduate with skilled volunteer experience.” Moreover, a Reed Employment survey (commissioned by UK volunteer organization TimeBank) showed that among 200 of the UK’s leading businesses:
- 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without
- 94% of employers believe that volunteering can add to skills
- 94% of employees who volunteered to learn new skills had benefited either by getting their first job, improving their salary, or being promoted
[survey summary courtesy World Volunteer Web]
This article gives tips for job seekers who hope to maximize the benefits volunteering can bring to their job search.
Volunteering is also fantastic for career changers. If you have your sights set on a new career, but you need to build your experience in that field before pursuing it professionally, volunteering offers myriad opportunities to do so. If you want to change your career, but you’re not sure yet what your new career will be, volunteer! Volunteering lets you experiment with new career paths, without having to leave your current job.
On a personal level, you feel happier when you volunteer. Volunteering lets you help a cause you love, all while doing work you enjoy. You make social connections with others, many of whom share your interests and passions. Your physical and emotional well-being improve when you volunteer: Key findings of “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research” showed that people who volunteer stay physically healthier, experience less depression, and actually tend to live longer than those who don’t volunteer. According to a UnitedHealth Group/VolunteerMatch survey, “78% of people who volunteered in the last 12 months say that volunteering lowers their stress levels.”
The Nature of Volunteering
Some volunteers work and live among the people they are helping. Some work at distribution centers that gather food and supplies for far-away recipients. Volunteers staff the offices of NPOs and NGOs, keeping their organizational bureaucracy running smoothly.
Thanks to advances in modern technology, volunteers can now work from the comfort of their own homes with organizations all over the world. Remote volunteers can perform tasks such as writing, editing, computer programming, web design, social media management, and data entry. They can help promote the work of an NPO or NGO from anywhere in the world.
Wherever there is charitable work to be done, volunteers stand up and use their time and talents to help—in person, or virtually.
Some volunteers commit to organizations for months and years. Some volunteers give their time sporadically; others might help temporarily, perhaps during the holiday season.
In today’s connected world, finding volunteering opportunities is easier than ever. The United Nations maintains a site with all-online volunteering opportunities. Idealist presents this comprehensive list of volunteering sites throughout the world, organized both by country and by continent. Sites like VolunteerMatch and Catchafire let volunteers search for volunteer projects and roles using a multi-factor search. Both in-person and online (virtual) volunteer opportunities are available. On VolunteerMatch, you can create a profile that lists both causes you care about, and the skills you offer. You can even be automatically alerted about new opportunities via email!
The Internet has given rise to a phenomenon called “microvolunteering”: Microvolunteers can use their Internet-connected devices to complete relatively simple, well-defined tasks. Often working in concert, microvolunteers perform small projects in brief intervals of time. If you don’t have a lot of available time to volunteer, but would still like to get involved, microvolunteering may be the answer.
Skills such as translating, copywriting, copyediting, brainstorming, and graphic design can be used to do a small-scale task. For example, microvolunteers might be asked to redesign a logo, translate a brief report from another language, or write a slogan for a new campaign to solicit donations. The simplest task might take five minutes or less; more complicated tasks could take two or three hours.
Skills for Change by Sparked, Cause Corps, and Help from Home are three sites that connect microvolunteering opportunities with volunteers. All three sites let you choose projects by causes you care about; Skills for Change and Help from Home also let you search for opportunities by needed skills.
Microvolunteering can be empowering particularly because it allows NPOs and NGOs to connect with a wider base of potential volunteers. The volunteers themselves, however busy with their daily lives, feel that it is possible to squeeze in a few minutes here and there to do these small yet important tasks. Since they are not making any long-term commitment to the organizations for which they microvolunteer, they can contribute with “no strings attached”.
How Do Volunteers Help LEAF Society?
Like many NGOs, LEAF Society is heavily reliant on its volunteer workforce. We have had many talented on ground and virtual volunteers from across the nation and overseas reaching out to become a part of our family. LEAF Society volunteers contribute in many ways to the organization’s success:
- Teaching rural villagers to use their Right to Information to foster social accountability, grassroots governance, and government transparency
- Designing and carrying out research projects, specifically in the areas of water management and sanitation
- Building sanitation facilities, and educating the public about their use
- Working daily with over 450 children at Joyful Learning centers, teaching them about:
- Child Rights
- Child Protection
- Personal Hygiene
- Life Skills
- Promoting LEAF Society projects through social media, presentations, and publications
Want to help LEAF Society make a difference for the people of southern India? If you only have a few minutes to spare, look for LEAF Society “Challenges” on Skills for Change. LEAF Society also offers ongoing volunteer opportunities, including internships. Contact us or check out our Facebook page to learn more!
Volunteering: Changing the Lives that Change the World
Volunteers work with like-minded people to further the causes nearest and dearest to their hearts. They offer their unique skills and talents to do good in the world. They gain deep satisfaction from knowing that they are personally helping others in important ways.
Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of International Volunteer Day. What will you do to celebrate? Will you offer your time and talents to an organization whose work is important to you? Join in the discussion by leaving your comment below!
Michelle Baumgartner is a freelance writer and editor. One of her current projects is an internship with LEAF Society. Michelle’s company, StellaWriting LLC, provides blogging, online content, and marketing materials for businesses and nonprofit organizations.