Volunteer your time, yet also your ideas

A few years ago, when I was asked to put forth my candidacy for a seat on the Board of a local non-profit, my first reaction was, “I don’t think I have the time.”

Granted, like most people, I had done volunteer work throughout my life yet a seat on a Board seemed much more substantial and would require a sustained commitment.

And, in truth, yes, such an opportunity does require a more sustained commitment than volunteering on occasion or for a one-off charitable event.

And, let me just say, it is well worth it.

Before I elaborate, for me, aside from engaging in a cause that I believed in, the opportunity needed to be one that was not just for the sake of placing on my CV.

It needed to be an opportunity for me to contribute, yet also, learn and grow.

We often hear the benefits of volunteering as an act of giving, yet from my experience, the rewards can go in both directions beyond what is typically considered.

No doubt, your time, effort, and energy can be spent helping and contributing towards a good cause.

Also, for your own benefit, you might meet new people and increase your socialization among many other typical benefits.

Digging a bit deeper, consider that a lot of non-profits function under tight budgets and face a lack of funding yet need to work in some respect as a business.

These limitations may result in a lack of adequate staffing for the day-to-day work that needs to be done.

The staff often wear many hats and that is where a volunteer that is committed and engaged can really make a difference in a non-typical way.

Aside from working directly towards the cause or with clients, non-profit organizations must deal with Human Resources (HR), Marketing, Fundraising, Public Relations, Communication, Governance, Event Planning, Financial matters, Technology and more.

If you looked at the list above as a standalone paragraph, you might think I was listing the curriculum for a business school program.

The beauty of this reality is two-fold.

First, if you have experience in these realms, your contributions can be greatly impactful and appreciated.

Next, if you don’t have experience in these realms, this is an opportunity for you to join, learn and grow.

And, you don’t have to be a Board member to contribute.

Most non-profit organizations will have Committees to tackle such areas and usually consist of Board members rather than other volunteers, aside from the realm of event participation.

The reality is, if these Committee are to achieve their mandates, there is at times, a substantial amount of work required. Not all Board members have the time to dedicate to these endeavors.

As such, allow me to suggest some ideas, and I do this knowing that not everyone will agree with my perspective.

Imagine you were a non-Board member volunteer; you might not have a seat on a committee yet could you propose doing a client needs survey for the Marketing Committee?

Or, how about a small research project on comparable organization job descriptions and salary ranges for the HR Committee?

Better yet, use your social media savvy to guide the organization with their Communication and PR strategy. Maybe you even have some insight on how they might improve their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) initiatives.

Are you on the creative side and can contribute towards a video production or develop other marketing material?

Moreover, training videos in any realm are always very useful.

These objectives can be very specific with an objective estimated time to completion so if you can't manage a long-term commitment, it can almost be project based.

Furthermore, some out there might think that their experience and CV might not carry enough weight to make it on to a Board. If you come in as a volunteer and work on initiatives or projects that garner great results, you might merit Board consideration.

My three additional suggestions would be to consider your own time before making such commitments. In other words, don’t over commit to something you can’t deliver upon.

Next, know that if you are offering to do work that it will indeed involve work.

Lastly, if you can, talk to someone who has done something like this before, especially if you are interested in a seat on the Board.

Anyone who has volunteered in such a role is already someone you know is willing to offer their time. They would likely offer it to you as well. Gain from their experience and maybe even learn from their mistakes.

There is plenty of room to volunteer your time, yet also your ideas.