Ten years ago I started working for a fantastic lady named Melissa at a local public relations agency. She is an amazing woman who taught me a great deal about PR and the industry I have chosen as my career. She is much of the reason I am the professional I am today and I thank her for that.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from her is the importance of giving back to your community. From that point on, I’ve made an effort to continue that trend in my life. It’s also the one piece of advice I try to share with new professionals when given the opportunity.
If you weren’t aware, I live in one of the most generous cities in the United States. Tulsa has a reputation for giving and giving, even when the economy is suffering. This includes both corporate and individual donations. But it’s not just financial giving. People give of their time and talents, just as much as their treasures.
Finding the right organizations with which to volunteer can be daunting. There are hundreds of organizations out there looking for volunteers. I recommend stepping back and considering a few things.
Where does your passion lie? Are you a sucker for kids? Do you prefer working with the elderly? What about health issues? Take a long, hard look at exactly where you think you can provide the most support and look for organizations that serve that population.
Over the years, I’ve worked with organizations that serve children, elderly and everyone in between, but I started seeing my dedication dry up. I realized that I wasn’t working with groups that truly held my attention. The passion wasn’t there. That’s when I sat down and thought about what mattered most to me. I realized that my family comes first, and I wanted to figure out ways to best help people in my life directly. My mom has lived with Multiple Sclerosis for more than 15 years now. My grandmother passed away a few years ago from complications of Alzheimer’s after living with the illness for more than a decade. Multiple people in my life have faced diagnosis of cancer — some of survived, others have not. I realized that my time and efforts were best spent focusing on organizations serving these people and I have narrowed my non-profit organizations to the MS Society, Alzheimer’s Association and several cancer organizations. I found my passion.
Set up an informational interview. Once you’ve selected the types of organizations you wish to work with, set up time to visit their facilities and speak with the executive director. Find out how the money raised in this area actually helps the local organization. How are funds raised? What’s expected of volunteers? Some organizations expect board members to pay annual dues to maintain involvement, but not everybody is aware of this until they receive the invoice in the mail. Are their target amounts set for each volunteer for fund raising? Ask these questions up front so you’re not surprised down the road.
Then, get involved. If you’re going to commit to an organization, follow through. Non-profit organizations depend on their volunteers to thrive so to have someone join their forces and then not complete the task at hand is a let down for both the organization and the other volunteers.
Anything to add here? I would love to hear other feedback on volunteering.