Faith & Life


Volunteering for a charitable organization benefits others, but also helps build leadership and professional skills for you

By Cathi Douglas     7/23/2018

Become a volunteer and support a good cause as you learn. Not only do your contributions to the charity help others, your work allows you to grow professionally.

When you rely on LinkedIn, Indeed, or Monster for job leads, you recognize that competition is fierce for most available positions.

Even if you aren’t looking for your next opportunity, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that other professionals are eager to move up the ladder and snatch your dream job.

How can you retain your relevance when you’re already working to capacity? What bright new ideas can you generate to let the boss know you’re an engaged and valuable commodity? Where can you gain some experience outside your immediate job description?

The answer to all three of these questions is simple: By volunteering to assist a charity or nonprofit of your choice, you can learn new skills, brainstorm new ideas, and see the new ways other pros successfully communicate. While it doesn’t pay a salary, a volunteer position lets you become a leader with very little down side.


Professional organizations need you

In my experience, leading professional organizations is rewarding on several levels. Not only does it train you to work collaboratively with others, it also forces you out of your comfort zone and into a place where your ideas are given serious consideration.

Once you lead the group, you can correlate directly the effectiveness and ingenuity of your suggestions – and consider the reasons you are or are not effective.

Colleagues grow to respect your dedication to the common cause. For me, that meant recognition of my adherence to the Public Relations Society of America professional code of ethics and earning an accreditation in public relations that few pros attain.

Does volunteering take up valuable free time? Yes, and unless you’re willing to give up a few “Seinfeld” reruns you won’t yield the rewards of helping others who need you.

Are the rewards of volunteering immediate and measurable? Not always. But as I’ve experienced leadership roles in several professional organizations, I’ve developed a strong, broad network comprised of professionals in many disciplines and areas of expertise. I feel good about reaching out to seek advice or assistance.


It’s for a good cause

Other volunteer opportunities allow you to use your expertise to assist nonprofits dedicated to your favorite causes, such as saving our oceans or feeding the homeless. No matter the affiliation, the same leadership skills, investments of time and talents, and monetary donations are necessary to keep the organization strong and operational.

My daughter and I spent a year working for School on Wheels, an organization dedicated to tutoring homeless children. It wasn’t always easy to get our young charges to focus on their homework or read a book, but we knew every time we stepped through the classroom door that these kids needed us.

Many volunteer jobs can include menial jobs such as stuffing envelopes or making calls for donations. If that’s the job you end up with, volunteering may not be worth your time. But it you go into a nonprofit organization knowing you can make a difference with your time, contacts, and experience, volunteering will begin to pay off almost immediately.

Knowing that your hours of volunteer work assist others is strong motivation. It’s amazing to see your efforts pay off – whether that means teaching a homeless child or rescuing a hungry puppy – or even planning a professional event that offers new ways for professionals to do their jobs.