Volunteer With Your Strengths

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Volunteering to help causes is a noble endeavor, one I hope every friend and colleague is able to do. When we volunteer to advance causes, we work to make the world a little bit better. A child goes to bed less hungry, a dog or cat finds a loving home, a student learns to read, a family enjoys clean drinking water — the causes we advance are endless.

However, one aspect of volunteering isn’t obvious: how we volunteer. While service of any kind is welcome and important, consider what we do as volunteers and whether we’re doing the most good possible.

For example, I volunteer with MIT’s Global Founders Skills Accelerator as an advisory board member to students’ entrepreneurship efforts. My role is to lend my 20+ years of digital marketing experience to help students grow and build companies. I could just as easily lend my time helping fill bags of toys for Cradles to Crayons (which I’ve done in the past), but that leverages only a fraction of the value I know I bring to a non-profit.

What I do, what I’m good at, is helping organizations grow through digital marketing. At work, companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to my employer for that expertise. If I want to make the most of my volunteering time and deliver the most impact, I should volunteer with my strengths.

As you look for volunteer opportunities, consider what you’re good at. Ladling soup at a soup kitchen is important work, unquestionably, but if you’re not good at working with people or food, perhaps it’s not the biggest impact you can make.

  • Suppose you’re a finance expert — could you instead volunteer to help families do their taxes, or help a non-profit straighten out its cash flow accounting issues?
  • Suppose you’re a talented writer or copy editor — could you volunteer to help a non-profit write compelling donor copy or clean up its website?
  • Suppose you’re an amazing chef — could you not only help prepare meals at a soup kitchen, but optimize the menu and budget to provide nutritious food while stretching limited dollars most effectively?

Do the most good by volunteering with your greatest strengths. Give the best of yourself and the world will be a better place that much faster.



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Originally published at Christopher S. Penn Blog.

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