Mar16200911:48 am

Volunteering even when the chips (i.e., the economy) are down

It’s heartening to see that even in the midst of financial crisis, more and more people are filling employment gaps by giving back. It’s also interesting to note that many small organizations, international or otherwise, often don’t have the resources to utilize a large number of volunteers. (I know from the Alliance’s perspective, our office of four wouldn’t know what to do if four volunteers showed up at our door.) Reports the NY Times:

Many who run nonprofits have marveled at the sudden flood of bankers, advertising copywriters, marketing managers, accountants and other professionals eager to lend their formidable but dormant skills.

But others grumbled that the current love affair with volunteerism, encouraged by President Obama’s nationwide call to public service, can be a mixed blessing. Smaller organizations, with staffs of fewer than 20 and no full-time volunteer coordinator, have struggled to absorb the influx, especially since many of them have simultaneously had to cut back on projects in the face of dwindling donations and government grants.

From a purely self-centered career persecptive, it’s worth pointing out again something Sherry has always trumpeted, and something I’ve then come to see as absolutely true: offering your pro bono services to an organization you’d ideally like to work for (or is in the same field in which you’d like to work) is a great way to network, to make a solid impression, and to become a “known quantity.” When positions do open then, the organization is much more likely to go with the known quantity—the person who has already proven his dedication to the field and his invaluable skills— than the unknown.

Of course there are so many other better, less selfish, more altruistic reasons to volunteer.  Once the economy picks back up and these volunteers are back in jobs, as they should be, let’s hope the volunteer spirit that seems to have come out in full force manages to remain in some form.

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