Skills Based Volunteering- Using Your Personalized Skill Set to Make a Difference

Volunteer RNs at St. Andrew's AME Church Provide Blood Pressure Checks at Community Center

Volunteer RNs at St. Andrew’s AME Church Provide Blood Pressure Checks at Community Center

What are you looking for in a volunteer opportunity?  Are you maximizing your personal value in volunteerism?  Is your organization maximizing its impact on the community and return on investment in an employee volunteer program? YOU have the opportunity to personalize your volunteer efforts, provide a specialized needed service to those in need, and realize a return on your employee volunteer program through skills based volunteering.

Skills based volunteerism is a great opportunity to provide a specialized service to individuals or organizations.  Leveraging your expertise to provide value to others can be incredibly rewarding in a variety of ways.  Many non-profit organizations simply lack the budget to hire professionals to maximize their operations that provide much needed services in the community.  Skills based volunteers fill that gap by sharing their expertise and increasing the value organizations provide to those in need.

However, there is a fine-line in determining what services will be provided without charge, and those that will not.  International freelance writer and volunteer, Sue White, in The Art of Giving Away Your Expertise (Or Not)   recommends that volunteers identify what and understand why your services will be provided for free or charge.  Skills based volunteering does not require you to give away in part or entirety, your economic value.  In fact, there are a variety of ways that you can make a difference by sharing a small piece of your expertise with those who cannot afford to pay for your offering, or providing a service that is not available.

Once you start looking, skills based volunteer opportunities are widely available and in demand.  An earlier post, Find YOUR Passion and volunteer suggests how to search for a local cause that you or your organization is interested in.  Oftentimes, the organization lists in-kind services or volunteer opportunities on its website that it is in need of.

Skills based volunteers are making a difference in a variety of ways.  Employees of a local bank provide personal financial management presentations to a team of at-risk high school students.  Based on high risk for hypertension, a group of RNs from a local African American church provide regular blood pressure checks for fellow parishioners and at neighborhood events.  A colleague and I provided marketing and community outreach plans to a grassroots campaign.  A local CPA provides monthly tax preparation services to low income elderly at the Senior Center.  A retired attorney provides legal advice to the public library.  A talented retired Army veteran, who enjoys crafts, leads activities for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.  Band musicians provide free entertainment at a children’s fundraising event.  And the list goes on.

Do you have a skillset that could make a difference?  Are you leveraging your personal or organizational resources to maximize your efforts and employee volunteer program?  Engaging in skills based volunteerism is a great opportunity to make a difference and demonstrate how your organization is impacting your community.

How are you making a difference through skills based volunteerism?  Leave a comment.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!


Leverage Baby Boomers for YOUR Volunteer Program


Senior Volunteer Provides Security for Neighborhood Event

The early Baby Boomer generation is well into retirement and thousands more are joining them every day.  We hear so much about how the Baby Boomers will bankrupt Social Security, overwhelm the medical industry, and increase the demand for long term care.  I want to bring to light a positive note about this generation that includes my parents.  Baby Boomers are generally in better health upon retirement, have a variety of skills, and many are looking for opportunities to volunteer.  As organizations, we should be ready to welcome retirees into our volunteer base and tailor opportunities to fulfill their interests.

My grandma, who passed away last year, was a lifelong social citizen.  She was active in her community, volunteered to help those in need, and was the Chair of the Historical Society in her town until her early nineties.  When my siblings and I would visit, she was always attending meetings or volunteering with the Grange, Women’s Club, the church, or a myriad of other causes for good.  In fact, when I was in high school, she told us she was going to go back to work for a vacation because she was always busy in her community.

She was not alone.  Many retirees, equipped with a valuable skillset after a long career, have extra time to give, and are interested and willing to volunteer for causes they could not engage in while working or raising a family.  Of those who have volunteered for me, retirees are some of the most knowledgeable, skilled, diligent, committed, and dependable volunteers.  While some are limited in mobility, many volunteer activities are still possible.

I have worked with older adult volunteers from newly retired Baby Boomers to the elderly population.  There are a lot of people in this group willing and eager to make a difference.  At my old office inside of a Community Center, an all-volunteer group supported a Senior Program for socializing.  An accountant, a nun, and a nurse, all retired, coordinated all of its activities, attended by nearly 100 seniors.  Others made wellness phone calls or home visits to isolated seniors who lived alone.  One of our retired attorneys, a Stanford alumnus, volunteered legal services to the library system. Elderly volunteers who could not canvass the neighborhood for a campaign, instead made phone calls to voters.  Retirees are adopting teenagers with little expectation for a family before aging out of the system.  An old friend who recently retired, is volunteering full time for the California State Fair this summer.   The list goes on, and all of these older adults are making a difference!

If your organization benefits or can benefit from volunteers,  engage retired Baby Boomers in the work.  Develop volunteer tasks and assignments that leverage the skills of this group and grow with aging needs while cultivating their interests.  Embrace their spirit of commitment and giving to support YOUR cause.  Otherwise your organization is missing out.

Please share your experiences!  Leave a comment.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Family Friendly Volunteering – Are You Inspiring a Future of Service?


Mom and Son at Family Volunteer Day

I am a parent.  I volunteer with the youth at church.  My neices and nephews that range from teenagers to toddlers. I help with Geometry, Physics, History, and English. I cheer  the team at football and volleyball games.  I drive 40 minutes for a high school car wash and buy tickets for a restaurant I do not like, just to support fundraisers.  I frequent science fairs, academic decathlons, cheer competitions, and soccer award ceremonies.  Why? Because I want to inspire good students and encourage greatness in the youth I influence.

But, what about the greater good?  With so many demands on our time, how can we instill the value of helping others?  Many parents and youth leaders actively engage children of all ages in community service through volunteering.  Finding the opportunity to cultivate a commitment to service while having a good time may be most challenging.

For liability and logistical reasons, many organizations do not allow volunteers under 16 to participate.  Do not be discouraged! There are a myriad of opportunities to encouragechildren in volunteer work.  Service clubs such as 4-H, Boy Scouts of America, and Girl Scouts of the USA are a great opportunity for youth service.  Faith-based organizations and child friendly community events are another option. Include kids in employer sponsored service projects, or school and sporting events and fundraisers.   Or, create your own volunteer activity with family and friends.  Designing  your efforts to be age-appropriate and enjoyable, expressing gratitude, and ensuring that children understand the purpose of the work and how they are making a difference is very important.

My teenage niece has volunteered with our family since she was 4 years old.  She has visited many lonely elderly neighbors, participated in neighborhood clean ups, served lunch to volunteers, cared for animals, tutored fellow students, supported school events, and much more.  Voluntarily, she joined her high school Key Club and volunteered all summer to support the coaches of the football team.  I am very proud that she has integrated a commitment to community service in her personal values.  I would like to think I played a part in that.

Some of my most exciting volunteer projects include youth.  One group of honor students from a Parochial school system along the West Coast provided 3 days of service to elderly in the community.  These kids were captivated by a 95 year old woman who recited poems that she wrote to her huband over 60 years prior.  Another team of students from a Jewish school in Arizona helped low-income older adults with household tasks.  On Family Volunteer Day, children and their parents made cards to be delivered with gifts for at-risk elderly in the community.  Rotarians, their children, and grandchildren visited isolated seniors in their homes and facilities in the area. There are many ways we can help our kids to make a difference in the world they live in and develop a lifelong commitment to community service.

Are you inspiring a future of service?  Leave a comment.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Small Business and Employee Volunteerism – A Volunteer Program for the Little Guy


AARP Volunteers Day of Service

Large, publicly traded companies receive a lot of attention, well deserved, for their employee volunteer projects.  Some companies allow employees to volunteer during work hours, and have the resources, including brand equity, to generate publicity about employee volunteerism.  However, small businesses oftentimes lack the resources to follow suit and fail to receive the benefits from engaging employees in a company volunteer program.  So, where does the little guy fit in?

Companies do not have to pay employees to volunteer.  Neither do they have to allow volunteer activities during work hours.  In reality, while this practice is really beneficial to recipient organizations, it is an in-kind donation of labor.  While I do not discourage companies from engaging in practices that work best for them, it is not necessary for small businesses to “Keep up with the Joneses,” so to speak.


Welcome and Introduction to Volunteers

When I was in high school, I worked for a dental corporation with nearly 200 employees founded on the principles of serving the underserved population with care.  Our CEO, a retired dentist, was a generous donor to a variety of national non-profit organizations and community volunteer.  When one of his organizations held a fundraiser in town, he sponsored an employee team to participate which included his donation of several thousand dollars.

On an early Saturday morning, employees, their friends, and families met up in company team t-shirts, on our own time, to kick off the event.  I brought my best friend, Jennifer, the Controller and her husband brought their dog, one of our billers brought her three kids and a friend, and many other of our coworkers came along.  And the event was a lot of fun.  It generated camaraderie, team spirit, and a rewarding sentiment that we were all doing something worthwhile.  In fact, employees gave a hard time to the manager who did not show to the event, and he really missed out.   I have many similar successes with employee volunteers.

Small businesses, non-profits, and public agencies can engage in volunteerism that maximizes their benefit to the employee, the company, and the community.  Successful projects fulfill the interests and needs of employees as well as the organization.  Inviting employee families and friends to participate provides an opportunity to volunteer that may otherwise be unrealistic.  A large, local community or industry sponsored event is a great place to start.  Oftentimes, you can generate a lot of buzz around your efforts and results.

In my community, a large association of hospitality companies sponsors an annual volunteer day where employees of member businesses provide incredible service through a variety of projects.  This family friendly event meets the interest of all ages of volunteers, many of limited means, who participate on their own time.  Not only do they establish camaraderie with their coworkers and colleagues in the industry, but they make a world of difference in our community.

How is your small business or organization making a difference?  Leave a comment.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Are You Maximizing Your Employee Volunteer Program?

Corporate Volunteers Provide Safety Assessments to Elderly Neighbors

Corporate Volunteers Provide Safety Assessments to Elderly Neighbors

Today’s consumer wants to feel good about where he/she does business.  This is a growing sentiment that will determine where consumers spend their dollars.  Through Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, many businesses contribute a lot of capital, financial and human, to “give back” to the communities where they operate.  However, some companies are not maximizing the return on their community service.  What is your employee volunteer program about?  Are you maximizing your service experience for volunteers, the company, and the community?

When I was in college, I worked for a big bank that engaged in community service through an employee volunteer network.  Each location or city included an employee committee, open to all, which selected local community volunteer projects and recruited employees to participate, while the bank contributed a handsome cash donation to each event.  Some of these events included Junior Achievement, Special Olympics, American River Adopt-A-Parkway, Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure, and more.  These events were awesome.  I made a lot of friends and connections, including the CEO, through the volunteer network activities where employees and retirees with their friends and families volunteered on their own time.

Special Olympics Athletes CSUS

Special Olympics Athletes CSUS

Special Olympics – the crown jewel of events.   Employees from all over the region came out to volunteer in the 3-day event, providing coaching and cheering to developmentally disabled athletes, preparing lunch for all event participants and spectators, hosting medal ceremonies, and the like.  For the athletes, this was the event of a lifetime and volunteers were inspired by the opportunity to make a difference by serving others with severe limitations.  What is more, employees established a rapport with each other through volunteering for a perceived worthy cause, which raised morale in the workplace and throughout the organization.  I met Brian and Shelly from the branch in Elk Grove, who now know employees in the loan center, and we will volunteer together next year too.  It was not uncommon to hear, “I know him from Special Olympics,” “We worked together at Junior Achievement.”

What is the mission of YOUR employee volunteer program?  Are you maximizing the service experience for employees, benefits to the company, and improving the community?   Is your program objective to simply add a recipient to your donation board, or to leverage human capital of your organization to truly make a difference in the community where you do business?  If it is not the latter, you are certainly missing out.

Leave a comment.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer.

Find YOUR Passion and Volunteer


WIA Youth Program Volunteers Paint Project   

     As a Volunteer Director, of course I want you and everyone in my community to volunteer for my program…all of the time.  But I also want volunteers who are passionate about the work and find their service experience to be positive and rewarding.  While ongoing volunteer engagements are a great fit for many organizations and the incredible volunteers that serve them, this scenario does not work well for everyone.  For those of us with limited time and varied interests, one-time events for a variety of organizations accommodate our interests as volunteers, maximize our service experience, and encourage us to volunteer in the future.  Finding the right opportunities require you to find YOUR passion!

     There are a myriad of organizations that need volunteers to provide a much needed service to the community.  But what opportunities are right for you?  Perhaps you are passionate about animals, children, elderly, the blind, developmentally disabled children and adults, cancer patients, low income residents, nature and the environment, health and wellness, sports, fighting crime, improving blight in your neighborhood, education, or other issue.   Find YOUR passion!  What issues are you interested in?  Find what organizations in your community are serving these interests, and ask about volunteer opportunities.  Most of the time, volunteer recruitment information is widely available online and posted on their websites.

     Another option is to join forces with a service club, neighborhood association, faith-based group, or other volunteer organization in your community that is already engaged in service activities.  Find YOUR passion, and check in with these groups to see how they are making a difference.  It is likely that an organization in your neighborhood is already engaged in service that YOU are passionate about, and is a great fit for you to make a difference within your interests and schedule.

    For example, here are local opportunities that are literally, at my door step, and I am making a difference in my community on my schedule:

  • My faith-based group supports three local non-profits that include two women and children’s shelters and a cancer center through donations and volunteer service every Monday
  •  A local bike trail clean up event takes place on a Saturday morning
  • One of my favorite non-profit organizations provides care for foster children is in need of volunteers with a skillset I have to support their operations, and I can do this at home
  • My family delivers vaccinations to various veterinarian clinics participating in a FREE annual Spay Day event
  •  I live near an assisted living facility for the elderly where my toddler and I can stop in after a morning walk to visit with residents for 15 to 20 minutes
  • A running race relied on volunteers to support the event that raised funds for disabled veterans

     These are simply a few of endless opportunities to make a difference in your community.  Find YOUR Passion!   Leave a comment.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

YOU Have the Power to Make a Difference

There is something that everyone can do to make a difference in the world around us.  Yes, YOU have the power to improve your community or transform the lives of others.  Regardless of age, income, ability, time constraints, or responsibility, each of us has that power.  My purpose is to inspire you to act on that power and leverage your human capital to make a difference through volunteerism.Image

I never underestimate the potential of human capital.  I am humbled and inspired by many people who endeavor to do good in the world around us.  The social environment today is one where people desire to be involved in making a difference, not simply donate money to causes.  The experience of volunteering in areas of interest to the volunteer can provide a reward unmatched by many other activities in life and encourage a long lasting commitment to helping others.

Finding a good fit for volunteers is key in maximizing the experience.  All of us have talents and abilities that can serve as resources to organizations that help others, be they public agencies, non-profits, faith-based groups, or service clubs.  Many of us are time constrained by work, family, and other commitments but would like to find an opportunities to make a difference.  Those with declining abilities and limited mobility who wish to volunteer are certainly capable of doing so within their physical limits.  I have had the opportunity to engage individuals from many backgrounds with such constraints in rewarding volunteer work tailored to their needs.

My passion for volunteering is embedded in my personal values.  I began volunteering as a child helping my grandmother make baby blankets that her Women’s club donated to local hospitals for new mothers in dire circumstances as some women were so poor that the hospital discharged newborns wrapped in newspaper.  I was forever inspired by a desire to help improve the world I lived in.  And, I believed that I had a responsibility to do my part to make a difference.

So, I began to engage in a lifetime commitment to volunteerism.  I provided service in my community through church activities as a youth and adult. While in college, I was active in the employee volunteer network of a large, publicly traded, global bank.  I worked on campaigns to save open space, recruited and coordinated volunteers to further that cause.  I directed a program where more than 10,000 volunteers in my community donated their personal time to make a difference.  As a mother with a small child, our family seeks opportunities to volunteer in our community.

My purpose is to inspire YOU to act on your desire to make a difference in the community.   There are opportunities to volunteer as an individual or group through a variety of services, and my goal is to help you identify rewarding experiences through volunteerism that fit within your interests and schedule.  YOU have the power to make a difference.