Done right, volunteering can also provide a real boost to your career. It can get you a foot in the door with new careers and job offers, especially popular choices. You could work your way up to volunteering on advisory boards. This can provide valuable connections and experience. It can also boost your professional reputation.
These days not much of our paid work is done together as a community. Volunteering helps bind us together. It’s an extremely valuable, and undervalued, part of our economy. According to Statistics New Zealand, the value of formal volunteering is estimated at $4 billion a year. Kiwis contribute about 159 million hours of formal volunteer work every year. This doesn’t account for all the other informal help, working bees and more.
Volunteering is a key driver for developing and progressing our society. This is especially true in key areas of sustainability, equality and social justice. In areas where our society lags behind, volunteering does the work we all could, and should, be doing. The work we should all be investing in.
For decades volunteers have been vital to caring for the overlooked. They protect our landscapes. They clean up our waterways and seas. At its heart this can be more important and purposeful than what pays the bills.
That said, one of the best ways to volunteer is through your workplace. A lot of firms include volunteering in team events. Some offer regular volunteering days where you get to choose who you help.
This can be great for business. According to recent Colmar Brunton Better Futures reports, 29% of Kiwi households actively seek out ‘do good’ brands and are prepared to invest their time for these companies.
In a global report by Deloitte, in 2018, “well-being, reputation for ethical behaviour and opportunities to volunteer to make a difference in the community” all featured in the top job priorities for millennials. According to Colmar Brunton, 72% of those aged 13-17 say it’s important that their future employer is socially and environmentally responsible.
The best way to do this is to get your workplace involved in something close to what the business does. Ideally it's something that addresses your impact on the community and environment. It’s nice, for example, to get your staff to volunteer at the sausage sizzle for your kid’s football team. But it’s more impactful if they also work to regenerate the stream and bush area outside your premises.
It’s estimated that there are more than 27,000 charities in Aotearoa New Zealand. This means there’s no shortage of ways you can help. Thinking of doing this regularly? Here are some tips for getting into volunteering, and getting the most out of it.
- Carefully consider how much time you have available. It’s best to be conservative about your capacity to help everyone can plan well. It also means you’re less likely to disappoint or find you’re doing more than you would like.
- Get to know a range of potential organisations. Finding the right organisation to volunteer for is important, for you and for them. Check out their website. Ask friends about the organisation. Ask to visit before making a commitment.
- Think about the skills involved. Consider what skills you have, and which ones you want to use. You might prefer to try something new or learn new skills while volunteering. Then check again for the opportunity that best fits.
- Collaborate rather than take over! The nature of volunteering is that people’s ability and commitment to take part ebbs and flows. Be careful if you’re one of those generous people who naturally steps up to fill gaps. You might get left holding the baby when everyone else takes a quick step backwards. Or, you might find you’re running a bigger and bigger outfit if the volunteer group grows around your role. The secret to success is that many hands make light work.
- Most importantly, enjoy it! Although volunteering is work, it shouldn’t feel like an unpaid job. Speak up if you want to make changes. Don’t feel obliged to continue in a voluntary role if it’s not for you. The most effective volunteers are happy volunteers.
This article first appeared in OnMAS, created in partnership with MAS.