Volunteering: the positives of serving others

Volunteering benefits both those who help and those who receive the help. Volunteers feel part of something greater while at the same time developing new skills.

ZUMA Press/Newscom
Ellen Zimmel was one of about 2,000 volunteers June 4 to help residents recover from the devastating tornado that recently swept through neighborhoods in north Minneapolis. Half of the volunteers began work on a four-hour shift in the morning, with the other half arriving for an afternoon shift to help with light debris clean-up.

As I’ve found in my own experience, volunteering can be such a positive and valued experience for both the people helping, and the people who need the help. I’d love to share just some of the positives I’ve observed for volunteers.

1. Be a part of something greater. Often new volunteers find that the “product” – serving homeless people, helping microentrepreneurs, tutoring young mothers on their GEDs, is so meaningful that it’s hard to return to the corporate world. They feel a part of something greater, because it is so definitively clear how they are helping. We all want to feel we are caring for and helping others, and are part of a movement larger than ourselves.

2. Keep your skills current. Use your current skills and "exercise" them just as you would any muscle. Are you an attorney, administrative assistant, construction worker, public relations expert, manager? Put those needed skills to use, and expand them as you continue your work. Since you are not under the guise of a strict corporate manager, you will have more freedom to expand them in creative ways.

3. Attain new skills and a second career. Once you have invested some time at the organization, ask to work in different areas or work on different business units. Express your desire to grow and adopt news skills. Try different areas in order to understand how the entire organization works. Learn for yourself, and learn to become valuable to the organization. You may find a new career!

4. Work on a hobby. Do you love writing on the side? Perhaps you offer to write or contribute to their newsletter. Are you a hidden tech geek? Revamp their website. Is blogging your passion? Help them set up a blog and create a stronger brand presence. Explode a latent desire of your own to help others!

Pamela Hawley is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving. She is a social entrepreneur who has founded two successful ventures and is a global leader in philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS). She is a Jefferson Award winner, a recent finalist for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, an Expert Blogger on CSR for Fast Company, and has been invited to the White House for their Consortium on Next Generation Leadership and Social Innovation.

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