You Get More Than You Give When You Volunteer

Posted on Oct 21, 2011 by 6 Comments
You Get More Than You Give When You Volunteer

Volunteering, to some moms, sounds like getting sucked into a black hole. I mean, who has time enough to be a mom let alone giving what little extra there is away? But I’ll tell you, spending a little time giving is like socking money away. It might hurt to think about it, but when you do it you feel great. Like you’re really taking care of yourself.

Sounds contradictory: giving actually gives back. But it does.

Before I had kids, I volunteered more than I expected I would. Probably because I was broke and liked nourishing my soul in ways that made me feel good and didn’t cost me money. Since I like art, I volunteered at a local theater, a photography organization and an art museum. About 10 years ago, my mom and step-dad even started their own non-profit to teach inner city kids art in New Orleans, called Kid smART. Talk about commitment! (yay, Mom!)

But it doesn’t have to take a huge effort, just an hour or so every now and then can help. Now, I hardly have any time so I look for ways that I can fold something into my life that works.

I can tell you, each time I work on some project, I get back more than I ever ever give.

Recently, I was reminded about volunteerism and how good it makes me feel. At the Mom 2.0 Summit (an awesome mommy blogging conference!) I signed up to help build a playground with KaBoom in New Orleans (where the conference was held…big coincidence that New Orleans is also my hometown). I was super impressed by the organizers who took time out of a conference that was packed with info and networking sessions to get us moms to leave the hotel and get into the community.

Good thing they did because it was the single best moment of the conference for me. Plus – and this shouldn’t be surprising but it was to me at the time – the playground site was where I had the most lasting, most in-depth and honest conversations of the entire conference.

So I thought I’d send along a few key ways to volunteer successfully. No one wants to experience a volunteer project that just won’t end, that is more hassle than it is worth, and that leaves you with a bad taste. And that can happen. Easily.

These tips come from a serial volunteer Lisa Sellman:

Choose Wisely – the most important aspect to volunteerism is to find what you love, and direct your energies into a charity or community organization that matches those passions. If you’re an animal lover, work with a wildlife rescue mission or animal shelter. If you are a nature buff, there are plenty of environmental foundations that can use an extra set of hands. If sports is your thing, there are plenty of community recreation centers that need coaches for needy kids enrolled in their programs. No matter your interest, you can match it to a cause that needs help. Just pick the right one, and your volunteer time won’t be a chore – it will be a joy.

Watch Your Schedule – As much as you want your passion to direct your choice of project, you don’t want those volunteer projects to rule your schedule. Make sure you balance your volunteer time carefully so that your professional life and your family time don’t take a critical hit. Most organizations will take as much time as you offer them, but if you only have an hour or two each week, they’ll take that time, too. Your volunteer life should not consume your work or home life.

Have Fun – Helping others is its own reward, but it shouldn’t feel like a chore. Even the most mundane task can be fun if you manage it with a sense of humor and passion for helping others.

Like I said, I typically choose art but this last time I helped build a playground. Probably because my interests shifted once I had kids, but more likely it was because the decision was easy. So, if you decided that, yes, you were keen to give back, what would be your go-to community service?

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