Last year I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. They create affordable housing and I love the work they do, but I had another motive too; I wanted to learn valuable skills. I framed houses, put up siding, and did interior and exterior painting.
The experience led to paid painting jobs, and I enjoyed the work. Now that I feel comfortable calling myself a painter, I have employment possibilities or could even start a painting business.
The point is that volunteering with non-profit organizations is an opportunity to help others while helping your own financial future.
Apart from the satisfaction of working for a cause you care about, here are some of the personal benefits you might get as a volunteer:
- A better resume
- Marketable skills
- Knowledge needed for a future business
- Networking opportunities
- A job with the organization for which you volunteer
- A job with a business or non-profit that does related work
Volunteering Leads to Skills, Which Can Lead to a Better Salary
Working as a volunteer is perhaps the easiest way to quickly improve your resume, which could help you earn more down the line.
For example, if you volunteer to manage Facebook and Twitter accounts for a local charity, you can add “social media manager” to your resume. And managing the phone bank for a few non-profit fundraising events makes you a “call center manager.” If you know what kind of work you want but have a hard time getting hired, why not help others while getting the experience employers are looking for?
The skills you develop and the knowledge you gain as a volunteer can be valuable in a number of ways. They can lead to jobs and businesses for starters, but when I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, I was thinking as an investor. I was hoping to do rehabilitation work on homes so I could feel more comfortable buying, fixing, and selling a house for a profit.
Whatever your goals are, list the skills and knowledge that would help. Then consider which volunteer opportunities might provide them.
How Volunteering Can Broaden Your Professional Network
On a survey done by Fidelity Charitable, a third of volunteers under the age of 35 listed as one of their motivations “to network professionally.” If this is one of your goals, start by figuring out who you want to network with. Then you can look them up online to see which charitable organizations they work with.
Your goal might be to get a job in the organization for which you volunteer. Two of the crew managers I worked with at Habitat for Humanity started out as volunteers, but they both had been on payroll for over 15 years at that point. An article on idealistcareers.org profiles a woman who volunteered with a family services organization and got a paid position there within a month or so. Sunshine, a DJ on community radio station KKFI, started out as a volunteer before getting hired to do her own show. Stories like these are common.
Of course, that volunteer time on the radio could have led Sunshine to a job at another radio station. Once you have that experience on your resume, there are many possibilities.
Locating the Best Volunteer Positions
If you just want to work on developing your organizational skills, you might volunteer for any of the large and well-known outfits like the Red Cross. But there are also many other nonprofits you’ve probably never heard of that offer opportunities to gain very specific skills and knowledge. Fortunately you can find these easily online.
One great resource is Volunteer Match. On their website, you can enter your location and you’ll be prompted to choose a category or search by keyword. If you live in a small to medium-sized city just click the search button without entering anything to get all the results. I did that for Naples, Florida and there were 107 listings of volunteer opportunities. I could…
- Be an animal interpreter at the zoo
- Be a tutor
- Host exchange students
- Walk dogs at the animal shelter
- Provide haircuts and salon services
- Be a naturalist
- Plan fundraising events
As an animal interpreter for the zoo, you get to “spend time with lions, tigers, giraffe, hyenas, and many more.” This might be useful if you wanted to start a career in animal training or just want to work at a zoo. That listing mentions several other positions at the zoo, including working with the horticulture staff to care for the exotic plants, and helping organize special events.
There are 100 other opportunities listed if none of those look good to you. An adoption kennel needs volunteers for the “Happy Tails TV Show.” It involves four hours of work monthly. In addition to working with the animals and cameras, you have to appear on television at times. See how easy it is to add “television personality” to your resume?
Your Turn: Has volunteering ever led to a job or other financial opportunity for you? Share your stories and comments below…