“But I swear you don’t get paid to volunteer? What’s the point, fam?”

18 Aug 2014

So while my system at work seems to be having a heart attack (which in turn is going to give me a heart attack) I thought I’d write about something close to my heart. Volunteering.

I get a lot of people, family, friends, young people, students, occasionally even teachers, asking what the point of volunteering is. Why do I do volunteering when I could be putting that extra time into earning more P, more moolah, more cash money. Money makes the world turn, keeps the lights on and feeds us, admittedly, but those who say that it’s all about the Benjamins (or the Elizabeths in the UK) can’t be right. At least, not if I want to hold on to my optimistic belief that people are not motivated just by money. Here are my top five reasons to volunteer!

I was pretty late to the voluntary game, only starting to volunteer when I was 20/21 (at the ripe old age of 22, my memory is going) and was absolutely unsure as to what to expect. I was lucky enough to have landed myself a spot on Team v which is a very structured, well supported and exciting programme. This gave me a boost in confidence, personally and professionally. I went to the interview day and the induction day dead shy, quiet, unable to approach anyone. Now? I’m able, albeit awkwardly, to shimmy over to people and strike up a conversation about anything. (reason number 1!)

Another thing I got out of volunteering was help to control my depression. I’m always open with the fact that I have depression and how it affects me, my work and my personal life. Doing good makes you feel good. End of! The best way to make yourself smile is to make someone else smile, and I made lots of people smile. (Reason deux)

The next thing which I noticed I gained was friends. It sounds cheesy and cliché, but I met some of the most amazing people through volunteering. I now regularly frequent the north of the country and have made some incredible connections with people across the country.(Raison Trois)

The friends I made are now also my extended network, socially and professionally. But my professional network has exploded since I started volunteering. All the jobs that I’ve managed to secure since I started volunteering have been through my network sending them to me. But also, all the support that I now receive from my professional network is unparalleled, I’ve never received support like it! (4 is the magic number)

Speaking of jobs, well… jobs! Having met my previous boss, Pete, (hi Pete!) at a training residential, I hounded him until he let me come and volunteer with him at Citizens UK. This part time voluntary role ended up with me interning with him for nearly a year. Pete put so much time, energy and dedication into developing me and put so much belief into me that it gave me yet another confidence boost! This coupled with my network from vInspired landed me my current role. Pete, to this day, remains my mentor, my guide, my Sherpa in life, work and learning. The entire team on Team v and those I currently work with at the NYA and O2 Think Big continue to support me massively too! (High Five!)

This fantastic boost of confidence has helped me achieve things I never thought possible. I’ve made friends I’m grateful for, work in organisations that people dream of and I make a difference.

So, do you really still think “volunteering doesn’t pay”? Think again, my friends.