Volunteering and doing things for free to help the community are among the most rewarding things anyone can do. On the one hand, you help the community you reside in or feel you belong to, and on the other hand you learn new skills and grow your network. In addition, quite often you are able to see the result of your own work and how you make someone’s day. If you are considering on applying to the US for example, the admission offices tend to look at extracurricular activities, which include volunteering experiences. So, what do you learn through volunteering?
- Prioritizing tasks. Since you are volunteering and probably for a cause you care about and are deeply invested in, you probably want to dedicate plenty of time into it. Because you are busy with your studies, work, or a combination of the two, you probably have a trouble balancing the three, so prioritizing your tasks and what you need to do when for each of your three involvements becomes handy. In the long run, the ability to prioritize tasks will help you with your work life as you will be able to set your deadlines better, have enough time to check on previous work and improve it before the deadline approaches.
- It is a place to practice theory without fear of making mistakes. Non-profit organization such as foundations are the excellent place to practice learned skills elsewhere and apply them to your volunteering experience there. In addition, no one is going to judge you when you make a mistake or if what you have done does not work. On the contrary, the rest of the volunteers will help you and, if necessary, will teach you what to do. It is unlikely that anyone will get mad at you for lacking skills or knowledge as it is a community based on volunteering. In addition, it is not possible to be fired since you do not get paid to do any work. The worst thing that can happen is a bit of blushing.
- Working in a team. Because most non-profit organizations group volunteers into committees and each volunteer has a different function within the committee, you are bound to learn to work in a team. You will improve and learn skills such as: effective communication, navigating conflict, finding a way to balance conflict of interests among other skills.
- Leadership. If you happen to be in the board of a non-profit organization, or the CEO/managing director you are likely to boost your leadership skills because positions such as these require you to lead the whole organization, set an example for others, help committee members with other tasks, and represent the organization at various gatherings. In addition, you boost your skills to communicate with various stakeholders and to write reports.
- Sales Skills. Because you are part of non-profit organization, you are very likely to find yourself in a position to promote your organization, be it through a community project or for funding reasons. Whatever the reason, you are likely to find yourself learning how to sell an idea to people of all backgrounds in society.
- Industry-related skills. Some positions in the committees do require members to have certain skills. For example, if you are working as a grant writer, you will find yourself not only learning how to sell but also how to pitch an idea to (potential) sponsors. Or if you are in the marketing committee, you will learn to how use different tools to promote your activities and projects which can come in handy in your work life.
- Networking. Learning to set up and maintain a network is an important skill as it will help you to have not only a strong diverse network of people but would also provide you with access to different organizations and fields and maybe will help you land your dream job.