Someone asked an interesting question this month. “We’re a culture that supports volunteering, but what do we get out of it?” For some of us, the answer was obvious. For others, not so much. So, I thought we’d look at it today.
It takes giving
When we volunteer, we’re giving. It might be information. It might be muscle power. It usually involves time and giving up something else we could be doing.
We are freely giving. We’re not talking about people taking from us, or being paid a wage for our work. We’re helping, and other people and organizations are benefiting. Sometimes it feels good.
But there’s also drudgery and grunt work involved… Why do we do that to ourselves?
But we also receive
We do it because we get something out of giving. We might not get a salary or hourly wage, but when we volunteer, we get something out of it. Or at least we should…
What we get can be highly personal, and to see it, you need to think wider than money or ‘swag’.
Some give (volunteer) to give back. They’ve received a benefit and now they’re paying back.
Others ‘pay it forward’, giving with the confidence that they will receive help when they need it.
But those aren’t the only things we gain either…
Volunteering is an opportunity to get experience. It’s an opportunity to learn. We expose ourselves to experiences and people more knowledgeable than ourselves. We see, hear, and discover things we wouldn’t have otherwise. We might not know a lot about what we’ll be doing, but there’s an opportunity to learn the language of what we’re doing. We get a comparatively low-cost touch on things that otherwise require a lot more time, effort, and possibly money to get involved with.
Volunteering is an opportunity to meet people. Since I’ve started volunteering with my writers’ conference, (link) I’ve met publishers, editors, marketers, musicians, graphic artists, and influencers that I might not have met otherwise. Volunteering with my church, I’ve met lawyers, college professors, general contractors, mechanics…
Sometimes knowing the right people really matters. And if you met those people through a volunteer activity, you’ve got more than a name, you’ve got a connection. You might not have been paid for your labor, but you got a benefit out of doing it.
Volunteering is an opportunity to find other opportunities. Opportunities pop up when something changes around us. Well, if we’re out doing things, creating change, and being a positive force in the universe, those opportunities are more likely to pop up than if we’re sitting around the house.
It’s a transactional thing…
Yes, volunteering takes work. We’re giving up something. But we’re also receiving something. Often what we receive depends on the quality of our efforts, the thought we’ve put into what we’re doing, and the choices we make, and being aware of what’s going on around us.
A week ago, I was thinking “I’d like to meet Orson Scott Card at a conference.” Because I volunteer and accepted a meeting invite, I know I’m two people away from being in direct contact with him.
My wife is about an eighth note away from publishing a song because of things she learned while volunteering.
It’s not a selfish thing. You can’t sit around asking what’s in it for me. But you can certainly know the possibilities and opportunities that come your way. And volunteering can help you in ways you might not expect.
Well, dear reader, that’s it for this one. I need to do the stuff I said I would in that meeting. Opportunities will come. Be wise about them. Take the good ones. And, I’ll see you next post.