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Volunteerism: the principle of relying on voluntary action (according to Oxford).

Volunteerism according to Suzanne F. Stevens:

  • Giving your intelligence, insight, and time to a cause.
  • A social phenomenon that provides opportunities to rub shoulders with diverse individuals with similar interests.
  • Exposing yourself to learning new skills, industries, or perspectives.
  • An opportunity to expand your horizons, your community, and your network of influence.
  • A selfless act that demonstrates your commitment to giving and will bolster your professional image!

Volunteering is… well, what you make it.

I have the pleasure of working with several volunteers for a number of initiatives and it prompted me to think about the reasons people volunteer.

There are several reasons one may choose to donate their time:

  • Develop a new skill
  • Expand their Network
  • Feel part of a community
  • Heighten their profile
  • Demonstrate leadership
  • Add to their resume
  • Pure altruistic reasons

The one sentence that we hear often about working with volunteers is “remember, they are  volunteers”. What does that really mean? I assume it means that because they are volunteers we cannot expect much from them. However, when I look at the variety of reasons why someone would choose to volunteer, most of them will impact the impression people will have on you or your organization as a result of their volunteering.

I think anyone who raises their hand to volunteer should be commended. However, I also think that if you are going to raise your hand, you really should consider why you are volunteering. What do you hope to gain from the experience?

Have a clear objective in your mind when volunteering; it will assist in making several decisions on your time allotment. For example, when something else that you perceive more important is scheduled at the same time as your volunteering time, your decisions will be easier. Another consideration is how you conduct yourself in a volunteering environment. Many people volunteer to enhance their professional careers, while interacting with other volunteers in ways that may jeopardize their professional impression.

Points to consider as a volunteer:

  • Am I on time for the meetings?
  • Do I actively contribute?
  • Am I being open to others’ perspectives?
  • Am I just offering advice or am I offering to implement (remember everyone else is also a volunteer too)
  • Do I continuously demonstrate respect for other volunteers?
  • Do I see my task through to completion?

One of the best pieces of advice I can provide to a volunteer is to treat the opportunity as if it was your client, and each volunteer is a decision-maker. This will ensure that we continue to respect the process and not take anyone’s role for granted.

Keep in mind, if you make the commitment to your job and you get busy, you wouldn’t just quit.

PS: I am so grateful to be working on the Success to Significance Conference with such a great group of professionals!


When volunteering, have a clear objective in mind on what you hope to receive in exchange for your time, insights, and actions. Treat the opportunity like a client; this will guide every interaction.

Originally posted on Ignite Excellence by Ignite Excellence.