Benefits of Volunteering and Commercial Work

Reasons to volunteer and also do paid work

There has been some discussion about what tasks should be volunteering or paid work. People should have paid jobs but also volunteer their spare time for personal development and helping those in need. Although the corporate sector is doing great thing for those in need, individuals can benefit from being part of organisations in both paid and unpaid capacities.

Professional Skills Should be Valued

Everyone should know their monetary worth. Monetary value of skills and services can help in valuing paid work, but also recognising how much of a favour is voluntarily given as a gift that should be appreciated.

We all deserve to be accurately valued for our capabilities. Michelle Obama has told the story about her own negotiations during her career, as referred to in this Harvard article. You can visit pay scale web sites and see how much you should earn per hour for your skills in a chosen industry.

Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of in casual and freelance work situations. There has been a few situations where a client wanted to pay the equivalent of just one hour of my time, then expected to grow the scope of the task without investing in that service. I know my worth enough to say ‘no’ in a freelance capacity. I also know when to go above and beyond for the right clients.

Return on Investment

Commercial work can better demonstrate ROI for services. Although voluntary organisations can guess at how much the individual would hypothetically have been paid, it is difficult to discuss return on investment when there was no monetary investment.

Every business needs to spend funds in a carefully budgeted plan. Any money spent needs to be profitable and avoid making a loss. At a minimum, business managers like to break even. Professional workers can take pride in saying that when they earned an amount, the company then made the desired profit that can boost the value of the business.

Other goals can measure success. Anyone can measure reach, ask about opinions in surveys and observe behaviour in analytics. Conversions can be known through sales or attendance. And yes, time is an investment. But there is a different return that can be achieved through commercial projects.

That being said, volunteering can be highly valuable in other ways. It can achieve reach and behavioural change just like the corporate world, even if they’re not returning on a monetary investment for services performed. But there are deeply personal goals that are better reached in communities. Active community members can gain feelings of satisfaction, belonging and self-worth. That’s not the top priority in a business. Let’s focus for a moment on personal development and skill growth through voluntary activities.

Volunteering Can Involve Professional or Amateur Work

 It’s important to know the difference between using a professional skill and offering unskilled help in a voluntary capacity. This could be with unofficial community efforts or a not-for-profit organisation.

A fellow writer’s opinion recently focused on the “inefficiency” of voluntary work that was primarily amateur. Some public schools apparently still do bake sales. I don’t have direct personal experience with the public schools right now. I am not a parent. It’s been a long time since I attended a private high school. But I have seen a much broader scope of volunteers in multiple organisations, far beyond the small-scale suburban efforts.

Unpaid Professional Services in Voluntary Membership Groups

People I knew have used their professional abilities in multiple voluntary groups that I was involved in. These not-for-profit organisations saved money through the kindness of those who helped for less. I am not commenting on any particular NFP. This is a general observation of a few groups. Accountants have offered to be treasurer or financial manager for community clubs and large membership groups. An organised coordinator can save an event when working as the organiser. Some people provide such quality and countless hours to communities they feel passionate about. If those organisations paid for such contributions, they would be too out-of-pocket to continue operating.

I myself have offered public relations and marketing assistance as a gift to some NFP groups that have limited funds. There was just no way these people could pay for an agency, freelancer or software. I can set up some digital content in just a few hours on free platforms. Someone outside the communications industry might struggle in understanding how to create much-needed PR. There can be a great meaningful feeling when using abilities to help others.

Highly skilled volunteering is an opportunity to grow work experiences beyond what would be learned in one’s current employment capacity. Unpaid leadership roles have been the first managerial experience for some leaders. This is a great stepping stone for any career. I had a friend who did include her community leadership in her resume. It highlighted abilities she had developed and taken seriously.

Learning in Unpaid Work Experience

My skills grew so much thanks to voluntary organisations. I had the freedom to create a PR campaign, complete with imagery, just months after learning graphic design in a single class. Employers would not have wanted such a beginner to design anything in a paid role. I put everything I knew into a quality product. This experience was priceless.

I participated in great community events a few years ago, going beyond the job description of my paid role at the time. I strutted along a catwalk during a modelling course. Being an Australian size 12-14 (I’m now 14-16), I would have been ‘plus size’ by industry standards. The class taught me about visually conveying confidence. I participated in a choreographed parade float for Chinese New Year. My employer connected me with a community group that rehearsed on weekends. These activities were beyond the requirements of my job. I also would not have been hired to do similar activities in a professional capacity. I look back fondly at the memories I made in that time.

Let’s Value Paid and Voluntary Roles for Unique Qualities

Both types of work – paid and voluntary- have clear benefits that should be valued. Volunteering can provide feelings of belonging, identity and confidence. It can also grow skills beyond what can be learned in employment. Paid work is crucial to make a living, demonstrate return on investment and contribute to the economy. If an individual wishes to volunteer, so be it. I strongly believe in a balanced life that includes making a living to be self-sufficient. Unpaid community involvement can be a rich experience that money cannot buy.

Volunteer for practice, learning, experience and success

Volunteer for practice, learning, experience and success
Image: iStock, edited