Growing Up as a Volunteer

It's fair to say I have grown up in a volunteering background. My grandparents volunteer in Toastmasters rain, hail or shine.

This selflessness has rubbed off on me over the years. My most recent experiences have been in speaking, charitable work, and helping those who believe in freedom.

But this desire to volunteer and help others extends to back to prior years. During high school, I always wanted to put 100% into charitable work and music. I got involved in Daffodil Day, school bands, and anything else I believed in. This was about changing lives and developing skills.

The most important influence as a volunteer would be my grandparents. The other life lessons are from some close friends who love the global community as much as I do.

With that in mind, this is what I have learned so far:

1. If you are available, say yes.

Why not? If you have nothing else to do, the least you can do is show up. Commitment shows reliability. And it helps other people to plan.  

A great mentor uses this example. What would happen if you arranged to have a speaker, then the speaker doesn't show up? Who will the audience listen to? In my eyes, the opposite equally applies. What if you organised a speaker, and half the audience decides to visit the pub instead? Whether you're in the audience or the main event, someone depends on you. And you have something valuable to offer. The same applies whenever someone offers something to the community.

2. If you already committed to something, say no to the next.

You can't be in two places at one. I know it's tempting. It's just slightly physically impossible. Keep that in mind when you want to be with family, and friends, and three groups of volunteers, all at the same time.

Pick your priorities. Maybe it's the group that needs your help the most desperately. Or perhaps it's the cause you believe in the most. You will eventually have to choose between helping people to learn, changing people's lifestyles, or supporting ideological values, or other purposes. Choose.

You can help all of these purposes at different times, but not all at once. Attend one thing and then the next consecutively in one day. But don't ditch a commitment for another one, unless it's urgent. Be reliable. Unless you magically clone yourself. But let's leave that to the sci-fi experts.

3. Don't expect recognition.

Have you ever attended a voluntary event and seen mothers catering delicious food, or organisers rearranging chairs prior, or audio assistants making sure the microphone works?

These beautiful individuals don't expect anything in return. They do it out of the kindness of their hearts.

For those who do ask, "What's in it for me," I have one answer for you. It's about supporting someone else's cause that you believe in.

4. Balance volunteering with commercial work.

All of us have to make a living. Whether commercial life takes an hour or 70 hours in your week, we all have something we have to maintain. Volunteering is that happy work you do after your commercial work is done.

There's that old analogy. Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others.

5. Enjoy learning skills when volunteering.

There is so much to learn when volunteering. Some learn organisational management skills on a large scale. Others learn how to chat with people. I try to volunteer my advertising skills for practical experience. Speaking opportunities abound in many organisations. Whichever your specialty, there is a way to grow career experience.

With that in mind, it's time for Gen Y to get more involved. I have seen a Rotary International Convention opening by Human Nature. I saw inspirational speakers at Toastmasters Contests. And I love meeting people who are changing the world. Be part of the action.


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