Why I Volunteer | LIVE
So, before I started writing this article I asked a friend what he thought when he heard people talk about volunteering. “Sort of makes you feel guilty” and “they are a better person than me” were the (guilt-inducing) replies.
Firstly I want to say that I am SO SORRY to anybody I have made feel guilty by talking about volunteering – please don’t feel guilty! It’s fine! Privilege and other societal factors have a huge influence on somebody’s ability to volunteer and if you aren’t in a position where you can give up your time for free that is not something to feel guilty about.
Secondly I want to point out volunteering is fundamentally selfish. Sure, you’re helping people, but you’re also receiving a whole host of benefits by volunteering. Here are some of the things that have made me (selfishly) continue to volunteer…
My first volunteer gig was as a super keen 14-year old in a committee organising the local Battle of the Bands. For the first time I was part of a group of people my age who shared a passion for local music. We got to hang out every week, discovering new music, learning event management skills, and geeking out about our favourite local band. Years later, we’ve gone our separate ways but I still have a group of mates to head out with to a gig (and we still geek out about the same bands).
Like many, I went through a super fun “what am I doing with my life?!??!?!?!?” period. I was fresh out of my first serious relationship, two years into a degree that seemed to have no relevance to what I wanted to do, and had taken 6 months off study to work everything out. After a month of binge-watching TV shows and only leaving the house for my part-time job, I decided to show up at an interesting engineering not-for-profit and ask if I could help out. By some miracle, that strategy worked and I got an intern role doing meaningful work on projects I cared about. My volunteer experience in an environment where engineering was being used to improve lives gave me the life direction I needed to return to my degree in the hope of working in that field in the future.
Now I don’t mean to get all sappy on you, but there is nothing better than feeling like you’re making a difference. Every volunteer role you take, small or large, ongoing role or one off job, makes the world that little teensy tiny bit better. Even if you feel like you’re stuck doing photocopying or filing, in reality you are freeing up somebody else’s time so they can make the world a little bit better. This feeling (which I call “warm fuzzies”) makes me come back to volunteering time and time again.
Before I start I should say, you shouldn’t take up a volunteer role just because it will look good on your resume. If you don’t care about the organisation you’re volunteering for, you might not be particularly effective and you might not enjoy it. But volunteering does give you a bunch of skills that will make you more employable so if you find a volunteering role you care about, consider this a bonus.
I have received so much from volunteering, much more than I have put in. While I care about the work I do and want to help people, really I do it for the community, the direction, and the warm fuzzies.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to volunteer, I strongly advise you to find a cool organisation that you care about and be a little selfish.
Here are some resources for finding volunteer opportunities:
This website has a mixture of paid and volunteer positions, all for ethical organisations.
Run by Seek, this lets you search by volunteering type, location, duration, frequency etc so you can find opportunities that match what you’re after.
Your local council, state government or federal government websites
Most governmental websites have a page on volunteer opportunities and are happy to receive help.
International volunteer organisations
Good for if you want to combine volunteering and experiencing new cultures. It is important to be wary of overseas ‘voluntourism’ organisations which don’t benefit the host communities.
Your favourite not-for-profit or NGO
If you already have an organisation whose work you care about, try checking their website for opportunities or (if you’re really keen) cold call asking if they need help. Sometimes they’re so busy doing their work they don’t have time to advertise for the help they need.