Volunteering for organizations whose missions align with your personal values can be a great way to help you make an impact in your community, but there are also a multitude of other benefits as well. A 2013 study even showed that people who volunteer “feel better physically, mentally and emotionally” than people who do not give back in this way.
I grew up in a family that valued community involvement and was in a service-based organization in college. I have certainly felt empowered through various volunteer opportunities, walking away knowing that I was providing an extra set of hands to organizations that could use the help. However, much of the time the types of roles I was working in were just that – providing an extra set of hands to accomplish routine tasks that did not require training. This type of volunteering, where you show up and say, “What do you need me to do?” is incredibly important. However, it is not always realistic for all of us to be able to devote great amounts of time to one-off opportunities – especially for young professionals who are seeking to develop our skills and curate well-rounded resumes.
In an effort to continue to give back to community organizations in a manner that also benefits my portfolio, I have made an effort to look into skills-based volunteering over the last several weeks. As this blog post puts it, “Skills-based volunteering is the intersection of that passion and purpose; it allows professionals to find a cause that excites them and make an impact by sharing skills.” This practice has become increasingly popular over the last several years for its mutually beneficial relationship; nonprofits with small internal teams are able stretch their bandwidth and get some supplementary expertise while volunteers are able to put their skills to use outside of their typical day job.
I started the process of pursuing these types of roles by attending more networking events and scheduling follow up meetings with different individuals at nonprofit organizations, getting to know the work that the different organizations did and where I might be able to help. If a contact wasn’t able to connect me directly to an opportunity, I would always end the meeting by asking if there was anyone else they could think of that I should talk to. As a tip for Indianapolis folks, I recommend looking into IndyHub, which has a mentor program and several partner organizations, to help match you up with a person or organization with similar interests to yours.
For now, I have decided to split my time between more professional development-focused organizations and one community organization. I serve as Hirons’ representative for the Indy Rainbow Chamber of Commerce, a group of LGBT-owned and/or LGBT-friendly area businesses, and have helped grow Hirons’ involvement with the organization. We just hosted the Chamber’s first “After Hours” event of 2020, an opportunity that allowed me to dust off my event coordination skills. I also will be taking a very active role within the PRSA Hoosier Chapter‘s finance committee, helping to raise funds for the organization’s scholarships awarded to Indiana college students. Both of these organizations are very focused on the business sector and professional development, but my personal connections – as a member of the LGBT community and as a former PRSA scholarship recipient – make my work for them even more rewarding.
Aside from these roles, I have also recently connected with the wonderful individuals that make up Girls Rock! Indianapolis, a nonprofit that empowers girls, non-binary and transgender youth through music programming. The organization is ran entirely by volunteers, and I am very excited to join this group’s marketing committee. This opportunity will allow me to put my strategic mindset and marketing skills to use in a way that will ultimately benefit young girls’ empowerment and development. I couldn’t ask for a better use of my spare time than that.
Regardless of whatever your passion is, there’s bound to be an organization out there that could use your help – and if you pursue skills-based opportunities, you’ll be able to help your own career, too. This article from Forbes contributor Kerry Hanon, while aimed at retirees, offers some useful advice when it comes to seeking out skilled volunteer opportunities. He suggests taking some time to really consider what you have to offer and reflect on what type of mission you’d like to serve. I can attest that this is the top question people would ask me when I expressed my interest in getting involved with a nonprofit, “What cause are you most passionate about?” It was difficult for me to whittle my passions down into one or two causes, but it was a conversation with myself worth having since it has now led to multiple skilled positions that benefit both the organizations I serve and my professional growth.