As we quickly approach spring — a perfect time for renewal and reassessment — think about how you can give back and get better. How do you do that, and also build skills relevant to your career? I’m here to tell you: it’s doable, fun, and can lead you down a path you may not expect.
How I Got Started With Volunteer Work
In 2013, I was running a fairly large global marketing team at Symantec. I tried to empower and delegate work so much that I was no longer in the day-to-day work. The digital world, especially social media, was changing at a fast pace. How would I keep up? Enter volunteering.
I found a volunteer position to run social media for GreatNonprofits — the Yelp of Nonprofits. My employer at the time had a “Dollars for Doers” program so that for every hour I worked, the nonprofit was paid for my time. Wow, now that was a win-win!
Ultimately, I took a job as VP of Marketing at GreatNonprofits. I learned a ton and was able to give back. Now I’d like to share ways you can do the same.
Six Ways to Find Volunteer Work and Develop Professional Skills
This, to me, is the mother of all sites to find volunteer opportunities and where I found my position at GreatNonprofits. At VolunteerMatch, you can search by location, by cause, and even by your interests — if you’d like to learn social media or search marketing, away you go! The site gets more than 10 million annual visitors and supports a community of more than 91,000 participating nonprofits and 170 network partners — so you’re bound to find something you are looking for.
Catchafire is a B-corporation (which means it’s a socially responsible business) and a matchmaker for nonprofits and professionals. Nonprofits pay a small fee to find qualified professionals who want to donate their time. Catchafire projects range in areas such as branding and marketing, fundraising, communications and public relations, design, strategy, website, HR, and finance.
Idealist, like VolunteerMatch, helps you find job, internship and volunteer opportunities by area of interest or where you live. With Idealist you can get involved in whatever way works for you — whether that’s acting as a writer, or being an Interim Executive Director.
In my view, Taproot is an organization that helps nonprofits tackle what is often strategic planning, management, marketing or design. For this site, you need to apply. And nonprofits generally post an initiative they have. In the past I mostly saw branding projects, but now you can find social media, marketing strategy, website help, digital marketing, even HR, business development and information technology.
5. HandsOn Network
HandsOn Network is a part of Points of Light. They have local chapters across the country, and you can use their tool to find volunteering opportunities in your area. I have personally attended some of the fabulous technology sessions put on by HandsOn Tech Silicon Valley. I have not used the HandsOn Network for volunteering so can’t personally vouch for it, but please give it a whirl!
6. The Good Ol’ Fashioned Way
Then there’s the plain ol’ “find a charity you care about and offer to help them.” I’ve done this with Art In Action (a wonderful nonprofit in Menlo Park that supports arts in the schools) and now am doing this for the Nature Conservancy (another amazing organization helping restore our environment). If there is a cause or organization you care about, offer to help them out by leveraging your skills. You’ll be doing yourself and the nonprofit a favor.
These are mostly my ideas for “marketing for good,” if you will. But there are lots of other ideas and sites out there. Here’s a Huffington Post article for more websites. Or if you’re in IT, from this Tech Republic article shows you how to give back using your IT skills.
Interested in uncovering more ways you can give back and get better? Share your industry and what you’re interested in… I’ll tell you what I know! Here’s to getting better together!