Friday, April 8, 2011

Free-lancing Versus Volunteering


I think the best way to get men - or anyone for that matter - to realize and get motivated for volunteer opportunities is to look at it as a form of freelancing - unpaid of course - or Free-lancing.

Volunteering is a great way to try or hone skills for something you may be interested in. You can gain experience doing something for a paid job. It adds to your resume above and beyond your education and work experience. If your job is less than inspiring it can give you that place to find meaningful work. And in this time when so many are unemployed, volunteering can show that you stayed motivated to be busy, looked for opportunities, and it can also serve as a networking opportunity to assist in finding a job.

I recently did a poll of men to ask what are the things that would get them to start or increase their volunteering. I entered what I believed were the common reasons and had an idea which was the obvious choice as the top reason.

Following are the reasons in order of most answers, along with why and how those can be bypassed or if still a barrier, how crossing that carrier can be seen as a benefit to your life and career.

More time


This is an obvious and easy answer - it is what I predicted would be the main reason - yet it is the easiest to debunk. First, there are many things that can be done that take very little time and/or can be done while doing something else. Second there are many ways to do something you already do but have it help out another group. OK it might not be 'volunteering' but it is still philanthropy or activism when you choose to focus your participation in activities that help a group out. You want to go out for a drink? Well nearly every weekend if not every day of the week you can find a function where your normal funds can go to a worthwhile organization. You like sports? There are plenty of golf outings, tailgate parties, sporting event ticket donation nights. At most sporting venues there are concession stands that are worked by volunteers - take an extra few minutes to seek one out rather than the regular stadium stand. I could go on and on, but these types of opportunities are a big part of this zine so you can always find them here.

There are also tasks that you can easily do while multi-tasking. A group may need envelopes stuffed and stamped, data entry done for mailing list or event sign up sheets. All of these can be done while you watch TV.

And in the end, taking even a little time can be a benefit as previously stated for your career by adding skills and experiences to your resume. You can even often declare your time spent volunteering on your taxes as an in-kind donation thus getting something for your time.

More interest in a cause/organization


I know where men are coming from on this one. It can often seem that causes and organizations are geared more towards women. But there is a reason for that, it is because they more easily get motivated to create them. Maybe it is  the emotions thing. But in reality there are almost as many groups for men. And if there isn't, it is up to us to start that group up. For any interest or life experience you have there is a group that helps the issues or uses your interest to fund or awareness raise. Everyone has been impacted by a health issue in the friends or family. Take that as motivation to help a group that supports that. You like animals, help out animal welfare. You don't have a specific cause but you like sports - there are plenty of sporting related events you could help with regardless of who it is for. As with all the reasons, we are here to help bypass the reason.

When looking at benefits, they are plentiful. From showing you are willing to step out of the box, to having initiative, not only can volunteer experiences be good for your resume they can greatly help with those fun interview questions. 'Tell me a time when you..." Maybe in your career you didn't have to do that but volunteering did give you that opportunity. And of course there is the networking aspect. Finally, if you take the initiative to start up your own cause, foundation, or even simple fundraising event may show you that you could fulfill your dream of starting your own business.

Knowing what skills and talents I have to offer


I have been surprised at the number of men that I talk to and that responded with this reason. I think part of the issue is they see the common activities and think they do not have those skills - they have never organized an event for example. But the reality is - every organization is in some way also a business and any skill you have can and is needed from pr/communications and marketing, to finances. And many organizations need simple manual labor as well - pulling weeds in the parks, placing barriers or water for a Walk. If they have a facility they may need handymen. You have a skill, someone can use it. Again we are here to help you realize that and find who needs your help.

From a career standpoint, this is the one where you gain experience. This is the opportunity to try something you have not done before and could not just get a job doing, but a non-profit would be open to you trying it.

More interest in volunteer opportunities (types of tasks)


So you think that all volunteer opportunities are the same, mostly related to families and women. Walk-a-thons, fashion shows, wine tasting, and so on. Or you think it may be a difficult emotional task such as helping animals or the homeless. First there are many other functions and tasks including beer tastings, chili cook offs, golf or bowl-athons, etc. Second, there are many other tasks as detailed under 'Unsure what skills and talents I have to offer'. Finally, help the group make an activity that you like. It is a sort of chicken or egg situation - does an organization need to make things for men to do to get men involved, or do more men need to get involved to make things for men to do? I suspect it is both and that is what this group is for, to make both happen.

Again here we see the opportunity to show initiative in creating something that has not been done before.

Knowing how to begin


This one actually got no responses though I thought it might. I would understand responses to this one. You have never volunteered before. You like an organization but don't know how to start with them. But it is pretty easy - just contact them. Most organizations have people specifically dedicated to helping volunteers. In addition, that is what this group is for. From links in The Library Circulation page to find groups to personal assistance, we will help you find how and who to contact if you cannot find it yourself.

My point here is twofold. First that it is not as hard as it may seem to do something, even something very small, that can mean something big to other people. And second that it can have big returns for you in terms of career advancement or simply in quality of life to add passion in a dull career.

So let's go and let's create that paintball tourney, golf-ball collecting and selling (clean the park and make money for a group), Guyathlon, fundraiser and while we are at it increase your career opportunities.