Why You Don’t Have to Be A “Genius” to Volunteer
Seeking professional development opportunities that also warm your heart? Trying to raise empathetic, caring kids? Looking to apply the skills you have developed throughout your career in a new venture? Whatever your age or stage is in life, volunteering can make a difference — to both you and the community.
For Dave Lynch, who suffered a cerebral aneurysm in his 50s, volunteerism helped him start over after his long recovery. He joined the K-Ready Reader program in Rockingham, New Hampshire and began reading to preschoolers. At a period in his life when he didn’t feel valued, the opportunity came to Dave at just the right time. Nothing screams “You are the man!” more than the shrieks of glee from a classroom of four year-olds as they gang-tackle you Tuesday mornings, dousing you with hugs and high-fives.
“It has been so uplifting,” Dave says. “The teachers make me feel wanted and the kids really make me feel valuable.”
“It’s been such a rewarding opportunity,” agrees Ron Kobrenski, who has volunteered the past two years helping working individuals in need claim the tax credits and refunds they have earned, but are often unaware they are eligible to receive. “I get to meet people at the agencies and people coming in for taxes. And best of all, you don’t have to be a genius to do this.”
Last year, United Way matched over 3,500 individuals with volunteer opportunities. The benefits of volunteering are wide-ranging. According to idealist.org, volunteering can help boost a career or help land a new job. Volunteering helps individuals expand professional networks, learn new skills, explore new careers, build a resume and show good character and values to potential employers. A 2013 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey shows skills-based volunteering can also provide a bridge to employment for those graduating from college or returning from military service. In that survey, 76% of Human Resource executives report skilled volunteering makes a job candidate more desirable.
Corporations also look to volunteerism to help keep employees engaged. They’re seeking opportunities to learn more about the communities where they live and work, team-building activities, and ways for their employees to tangibly help both nonprofits and more importantly the people they serve.
“This really opens your eyes to the programs that are out there and what the community needs from us,” says Kristine Romboletti, marketing coordinator at Lindt & Sprungli. “And we’re office people, so it’s nice to get out and get our hands dirty.”
According to the national volunteer organization generationOn, research is suggesting that volunteering yields important benefits to children and families, too. Their top benefits include helping kids and teens develop empathy and a commitment to service, showing kids they are appreciated, and spending quality time together as a family.
Volunteers bring great value to the community. Last year, the combined 10,000 hours our volunteers worked was worth close to $150,000 to the nonprofits they served. But volunteers also want to feel like they are having a meaningful impact, and that only happens when the volunteers are filling a legitimate community need.
Our constant dialogue with both corporate and community partners ensures we match company volunteers and nonprofits effectively. Last year we surveyed our 180 community partners on their need for volunteer support. Frequently-cited needs for volunteers by nonprofits include mentoring and tutoring young people in after-school programs, helping to conduct mock job interviews and advise on resume-writing, and ensuring the nonprofits themselves run most efficiently by helping them raise funds, serve on their Board, expand use of social media and help put on community events. To date this year, United Way has helped triple-match companies, nonprofits and volunteers through over 120 projects.
The bad news is that there is no shortage of community need. The good news is there are plenty of ways that volunteers – from corporations, schools or neighborhoods – can make a real and critical difference.
Ready to get involved? We can help make your team-building activity one to remember, connect you to rewarding individual opportunities, or create a meaningful experience for you and your family. Visit our Volunteer page to learn how to get started!