By: Sheila R. Davis, Volunteer Coordinator
Have you ever read the volunteer opportunities listed by an organization and thought, “hmm, nothing here applies to my skills and/or interest?” For various reasons (often monetary, time and or staff limitations, etc.,) non-profits post what can appear to be generic position descriptions. Instead of being the end point, I believe these position descriptions can be a jumping off point to match talented, creative volunteers with meaningful projects. However, it will take effort for organizations and potential volunteers to make this happen.
The next time you come across a volunteer opportunity that doesn’t seem to fit your interests or skills, don’t just move on. Think about it; maybe the position can be tweaked to better match your skills or maybe the description can be a springboard to another opportunity tailor made for your skill set. For example an organization has an opening for a food pantry volunteer. Maybe stocking shelves is not your cup of tea, but you have experience as a dietician. You could offer your services to educate the pantry clients on cost effective ways to make healthy, nutritious meals on limited budget. An organization lists a position as “youth activities aide”, you may not have experience working with children or teens, but you’re a computer programmer. You could offer to teach a workshop on Programming 101. Who knows, you may end up inspiring the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Let’s say you have experience in Human Resources, you could offer to help the Volunteer Coordinator (hint, hint) update the current volunteer descriptions or create new ones.
Experts call this “skills-based volunteering”, which means leveraging the specialized skills and talents of individuals to strengthen the infrastructure of nonprofits, helping them build and sustain their capacity to successfully achieve their missions.
There are many benefits to skill based volunteering for both the organization and for the volunteer. The nonprofit is able to take advantage of the volunteer’s professional knowledge and business expertise and, at the same time, the volunteer receives cost-effective training and development. For volunteers, skills-based volunteering provides the opportunity to use their expertise to make a measurable impact on issues they care about.
To learn more about skills based volunteering, click here.
To learn more about volunteering with The Salvation Army in Missouri and Southern Illinois, click here.