The reasons for volunteering are mostly personal, but generally the time, treasures and talent contributions can yield benefits in the following areas:
- Helping an organization or cause one believes in and/or has been affected by in their lives or within their families.
- Expanding one’s professional and/or personal social network in a community.
- Fulfilling a requirement for a leadership development program.
Just as the motivations can vary for allocating one’s time for pro bono efforts, the types of volunteering are more than we might realize at times. Similar to the spectrum of nonprofit organizations, volunteering activities and roles can take on many shapes while constituting a valued portion of an organization’s fundraising, event management, educational programs or health issues awareness initiatives.
- Personal activities – Volunteering at a church, school, environmental association or arts organization.
- Professional activities – Mentoring students in a career field, serving as a judge for award panels for local professional associations or rating candidates for continuing education certifications.
- Social activities – Expanding one’s network by serving as a greeter, usher or gate monitor at a fundraiser, race, grand opening or social extravaganza.
If you find yourself in a volunteer duty that isn’t particularly prominent or exciting, you can still absorb a lot of interesting practical knowledge on logistics and efficiencies from people working security, delivering ice and staffing an entrance. When assigned a role such as checking people’s tickets or VIP passes and it sounds like a tedious assignment, embrace the opportunity that you will be speaking and seeing everyone who enters that area. This could lead to meeting business leaders, mentors or just some new contacts in different industries of your community.
After these experiences, some of which were boring and solitary at times depending on the time and location, I felt some personal satisfaction having turned out, met some new people and offered my assistance as a “utility fielder” wherever needed.
At some events that I signed up for and showed up on time, they haven’t always been ready or fully organized in delegating the assignments. While these instances happen and can be frustrating for someone who keeps a punctual schedule, I always offer this up to the organizer, “Look, you have me for the next four hours, so please just let me know what you need and I’ll get it done.”
Whether you want to congregate at the front of a festival beer tent as a social butterfly or you don’t mind grabbing a clipboard, hammer or two-way radio, consider the merits that different volunteering situations may present for yourself. You don’t have to just stand there to get that free T-shirt or earn those points for a project or certification, be gregarious and get your hands dirty if necessary.