I think that there are certain times in your life when it is easier to get involved in your community than others; when you are a student, there are countless student groups offering you free food and goodies to join, and when you are a parent, by the nature of most activities you have a quasi-group of parents who have to attend and volunteer at the same things that you do. However, many of us don’t fall into either of those groups, and I think that that is the best time to get involved and make a difference! And yes, it benefits your community, but it also benefits you…
I know that there are many people who are going to tell me that they are too busy to get involved anywhere, and by that, they mean they don’t want to give up their “me time”. Well, the default state for most of us is “me time” and if you honestly can never give up time for anyone else, this probably isn’t the post for you.
Volunteering is a bit more tough for me with Agnes right now, because I have to be home for her, but I enjoy my volunteering advising for my sorority chapter because I get to give back to a group that means the world to me, it is quite flexible, and I’m developing my skills further. I’ve also volunteered with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in the last few years, as well as three years of Rabbit Wrangling with the local humane society. While it is wonderful to know that the organisations are benefiting from my time, I have also received quite a few benefits in return for it!
You Can Find Something to Suit Your Schedule
I have volunteered with quite a few organisations, and I have to say, most groups are so thankful to have you volunteering for them that they are usually willing to make it fit your schedule, and sometimes even have roles that can be done remotely/from home! Now, obviously you will have to be available during school hours if you want to read to children in the classroom, or during the evening to volunteer with a sports team, but if you aren’t nailed down to one particular volunteering role, you can certainly find something that works with the free time that you’ve got! Before you set out, I would think on how often you want to volunteer (weekly? monthly? for a specific event?), what you would actually like to be doing (doing the work of the group itself? promoting it? administrative work?), and how long you are willing to commit (a lot of organisations that bring on volunteers prefer a minimum commitment, typically 6-12 months, to minimise changeover).
You Can Make New Friends
Adulthood is a vast pit for friendship; depending on where you live and what you do for a living and for hobbies, it can be quite difficult to make new friends. (For more info on making new friends, I have a post here to help 🙂 ) Volunteering is a wonderful way to make friends in a new city (or in a new phase of life) without setting out to specifically make friends. If you are volunteering together, you will have one guaranteed topic in common, and you will probably get to know people naturally. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I do find that sharing in accomplishments is a good bonding factor, and it’s also wonder to achieve that goal together and then relax and celebrate afterwards!
You Can Develop Your Talents and Skills
I have interviewed for jobs where they will only considered paid experience when hiring you, and that is unfortunate for those companies, because you can develop countless skills through volunteering. Want to find out if you would be a good manager? Be a volunteer coordinator for a local run or a gala- you will have to manage several volunteers and supervise them over many different tasks and jobs. Trying to learn coding and social media? Offer to help out with the social media and web team for an animal rescue or small theatre group- they need to get the word about what they do out there, and it’s a smaller, manageable way to test the tech waters. You can even dip your toes into more technical and complicated roles like bookkeeping for an organisation (if they don’t require certification for those roles). It’s also usually not as rigid as a job, so you won’t necessarily have to go through months of training and jump through hoops like you would in an employed position!
Volunteering at the Winnipeg Humane Society is how I became familiar with their classes!
You Can Find New Opportunities
Volunteering with other people is a great way to find new opportunities! It might be a new job, it might be a travel buddy/buddies, a new restaurant to try, the list is endless. Something that I love about everywhere I have volunteered is that people from all walks of life like to give their time and energy to causes, and you may meet people that you would have never otherwise met. I find that networking can sometimes have a bad connotation, as we all stop and think about an awkward cocktail party with nametags and cold hors d’oeuvres and so many business cards. However, volunteering is a more natural form of networking- you are usually spending a good amount of time with people when they can actually see your skills in action, as well as get to know your personality and work ethic. This could very well come in handy if you happen to end up looking for a new job. You also might just end up chatting with someone there and finding a new pet groomer, hair stylist, doctor, or mechanic, and those are things that come in handy when you least expect it!
Where do you volunteer? What is your favourite part about volunteering?