The season of giving. When is it? We all might have a different opinion, but I’d argue that the season never truly ends as giving is a deed that can, and should, be done all year round.
Giving, of course, is by no means a narrowly defined thing. One can give in many ways through either resources or time each of which are important in advancing the social good. However, I’d wager that your $20 shared to a national organization won’t carry the same benefit as you getting involved within your community.
Donating alone just doesn’t quite connect you with the issue the way volunteering does and likely won’t encourage you to be a champion for a cause. Again, donations are important but there seems a disconnect at times with the value that someone’s time and energy can be. In fact, estimates of this value have calculated around, sometimes even above, $20 an hour for volunteered time. Seems clear that there is a big return from few hours of your time.
By no means can we size the value of volunteering through money alone. That’s an injustice to the wider array of benefit gained. We can all probably imagine the worth an organization or outfit finds in volunteered time: reduced expenses, more impact, better community involvement and so forth.
But how about what you might take away in sharing your coveted time? Let me toss out a few key hitters.
One of the greatest takeaways, in my opinion, are the connections that can be made. Networking is all the rage does these days, and for good reason, as who you know can really influence the possibilities that come your way.
Volunteering serves as an outstanding opportunity to meet not only fellow community members, but those who may share similar interests to you. Further, too, you may meet people that you generally wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise.
Learn new skills, develop existing ones
Tagging along with that point, meeting new people might mean learning something new. In turn, volunteering opens your horizons of learning a new skill or just as well developing on what you already have.
Skills here isn’t simply technical know-how, but might be more aligned with social interactions like communication, teamwork, leadership, organization, time-management and other complimenting qualities that are best grown through experience.
Not to skip over the fact that you may learn new perspectives, ideas and general knowledge depending on the volunteer activity which serves to make you a more well-rounded character. For example, volunteering as a citizen water monitor likely will teach you factors around water quality and you may just as well develop an eye for stream features and fluctuations that follow the seasons or storm events.
Add value to your community
The last one I’ll mention, and possibly the hallmark reason for voluntary service, is knowing that your adding value to the community. After all, what can compare to the feeling of having a lasting impact?
Further yet, we all have vast skills and talents that when shared can be quite impactful. The beauty, too, is that there aren’t prerequisites to be an involved community member. Instead, it’s merely sharing your time and working toward a worthwhile goal.
If nothing else, taking time to volunteer sets the example to be involved outside of one’s own interests, especially for upcoming youth.
Don’t hesitate at the opportunity to volunteer. It’s a worthy use of your time, I promise.
Chris Gass is a MN GreenCorps member serving at the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District and focusing on stormwater and urban forestry. Reach him at 218-384-3891 ext. 5. Information on the SWCD can be found on Facebook and at carltonswcd.org.