Volunteerism…A Great Sport

Originally posted on 5/15/09 at http://parkerdevelopment.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/volunteerism-a-great-sport/.

Volunteerism…A Great Sport

I’m a sports fanatic, so am continually looking at the benefits of teamwork, strategy and “sports”manship and comparing it to the non-profit community. To me, there are a ton of similarities. The biggest, in my opinion, can be teamwork. Assembling a group of people, perhaps from varying segments of society, together to focus on a single goal can be extremely fun and effective.
This week alone, I’ve presented the topic of volunteerism to three different groups of people. In all, I spoke to over 100 new “friends” on a topic very close to my heart…a topic which directly answers community concerns. The energy I get from preparing these presentations, I hope, is obvious when I share my message.


Volunteerism, particularly to a newbie, can be tough to approach, thus intimidating. There are many people who say they want to volunteer, but have a hard time stepping outside their comfort zone and offering the help. There are others who have no problem offering, but have a tough time finding an organization that fits them. Don’t get disgruntled…you’re wanted and needed!


In a presentation to 25 young professional women, I equated finding the right volunteer opportunity or organization for them, to dating. “Sometimes you need to weed through the crap before you find the one”, was my exact statement. Thankfully, I didn’t scare any of them away. The fact remains, the beauty behind this path is that you learn a great deal, so when you find a suitable organization, the puzzle piece fits even better.


Having been a volunteer for over half my life (yes, I’m an X’er), I’m still trying to find my way through many volunteer opportunities. Perhaps I serve too much, but it’s an incredibly special and huge part of my life. Thinking about it today at a volunteer workshop, I guesstimated that I work an average 75 hours a week and serve an additional 40-50; the rest is applied to my kids, running and sleeping (hardly). That’s MY balance; which I truly value, cherish and accept.


Living in Reno, Nevada, I find that volunteerism is lower than allowable. Digging around a bit, I learned that the state of Nevada ranks last in volunteerism at a 17.7% rate…thanks only to 25% of residents in Reno/Sparks. Even then, only 26.2% of our nation’s residents volunteer their time. I’m not satisfied …shouldn’t we all try to do something? Sure, perhaps it’s our tracking mechanism, of which can be challenged (and improved), but it’s an indication that we can do more.


Generally speaking, communities do not have efforts embracing volunteer matching or introductions. There are many volunteer centers, but most manage more than seek. When you have a large community need to recruit key volunteers, yet no mechanism in place to meet the need, nothing happens. This can easily lead to board stagnation and apathy, organizational breakdown or misdirection and loss of beneficiary impact.


I’m always asked why someone would volunteer. Though the list is long, here’s a basic summary:

  • Help others
  • Make a difference
  • Find purpose
  • Enjoy a meaningful conversation
  • Connect with your community
  • Find purpose
  • Enjoy a meaningful conversation
  • Connect with your community
  • Feel involved
  • Contribute to a cause that you care about
  • Use your skills in a productive way
  • Develop new skills
  • Promote your business
  • Meet new people
  • Explore new areas of interest
  • Meet good people
  • Learn how to interact with others
  • Impress your mom
  • Impress yourself
  • Expand your horizons
  • Help find a new job or career
  • Get out of the house
  • Make new friends
  • Strengthen your resume
  • Feel better about yourself
  • Develop business leads


I admit that I found this list…and added a few, but my personal favorite isn’t on there. I love my community, wherever that community happens to be. Right now, it’s in Northern Nevada. Regardless, the ultimate reason I volunteer is to see a smile. Might sound hokey to some, but if someone’s hoisting a smile, it likely means that the person is enjoying the moment and/or quite possibly has a job, home, healthy diet, circle of family and friends, and positive outlook. That’s all it takes for me.


I’m also frequently asked how someone can volunteer their time. While it seems easy (and it is), it can be unnerving. I usually dig deeper and ask about their interests, skill sets, passions, family histories, wishes and time availability. From here, I can usually identify a handful of organizations and volunteer roles they can pursue. As you can imagine, I’m actively seeking volunteer opportunities for a handful of people as we speak. Fortunately, I have a set of criteria with which to work. With over 2,000 non-profit organizations in Northern Nevada, this can prove to be quite a search.


Naturally, I point everyone to www.volunteermatch.org as a starting point. In some areas, like Northern California, VolunteerMatch is a huge resource. As for Northern Nevada, we’re just getting it built (but keep checking!). Another source of information can come through friends, family, employers, co-workers, media; heck, the nearby grocery clerk. If this doesn’t work, they can always contact me. I’ll drop everything to make a connection. Hooking the right person with the right organization can really be another gift that keeps giving!


If you’re looking for your first or next volunteer opportunity, check your local volunteer center, go to VolunteerMatch or simply contact me. Volunteerism is a ton of fun and provides tremendous value to you and the organization or, more importantly, the end beneficiary.




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