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Volunteer Experience: Does It Really Count?

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It does with those employers who consider themselves to be good corporate citizens!

Are you a Gen Zer trying to get a toehold in the job market or a Gen X-Yer returning to paid work after an extened leave for child and/or elder care?  Maybe you’ve: 

  • Participated in building a school in Nicaragua (think:  culture, diversity, flexibility, team building) or
  • Chaired a fundraising committee for your child’s PTA (think:  profit awareness, risk taking, numerical literacy, goal-setting, negotiation) or
  • Volunteered in the local cancer clinic (think:  empathy, intuition, coping under undue stress) 

These skills can be packaged and marketed to your advantage.  They’ve undoubtedly boosted your confidence, strengthened your sense of purpose, engaged you in the community and proved your commitment to client service, amongst other things.  Employers will always hire for attitude and people skills which are challenging to teach whereas technical skills can be more easily learned.           

Many not for profit agencies couldn’t exist without the help of volunteers.  The following Fast Facts are from Statistics Canada www.statcan.gc.ca and the Association of Fundraising Professionals  www.afpnet.org:

  • $10.6 billion was contributed by Canadians to charities and non-profits in 2010
  • 47% of Canadians volunteer in their communities
  • 2.1 billion hours were volunteered by Canadians in 2010
  • 71% of Canadians believe charities address needs not met by organizations in the public or private sector
  • 70% of Canadians donated to a charity or non-profit in the last 12 months
  • 11% of Canadian donate because they have been personally affected by the work of the charity

Talk about a 3-way win!

First, non-for-profit agencies win:  Government funding continues to decline;  the competition for fund raising and fund development dollars is more fierce than ever;  ramping up for social enterprise takes time.  Without good corporate citizens and individual volunteers, many not-for-profit agencies couldn’t continue the really important work they do.  

Second, your employer wins:  While many large corporations fund the arts, health care, etc., many small and medium businesses are also good corporate citizens.  In fact, only 1% of SMB’s surveyed (by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business) reported that they had no involvement in community causes.  It’s interesting to note that, during the recession, companies didn’t decrease their participation even when profits were down but, rather, increased their engagement because they thought the need would be that much greater.  Whether your employer donates money and/or good and services, sponsors local sports teams, promotes local charities or donates time, it will be looking to recruit and retain employees with similar values.  In many ways, company support is more effective,  efficient and vital than government support because it gets directly to the people in need and quickly. 

Last, but not least, you as an employee, win:  volunteering provides meaning and purpose in your overall life, all the more so if your paid work doesn’t to the degree that you need and want.  It also provides you with new opportunities for training, development, on-going learning, team work, all of which are highly transferable.

So whether you build for Habitat, cook and serve dinner at a Ronald McDonald House, coach teens at Junior Achievement, raise money for your children’s school for sports and nutrition programs, don’t be shy about showcasing these skills for your employer.  It’s not shameless self promotion:  it’s demonstrating what motivates you to do what you do best every day!

Need some inspiration?  Most cities have a Community e-Blue Book or Info web site that lists its not-for-profit agencies.  There will be at least one cause that catches your attention so grab it!