UR Staff, Human Resources
Serves regularly with the Gay Community Center of Richmond, among other organizations!
April is National Volunteer month and as I write this blog post, I am struck by the fact that I have been serving in volunteer capacities for all of my professional life, which equates to 37 years! The agencies and non-profits have changed over the decades, everything from Girl Scouting to Hospice, United Way, Susan G. Komen Foundation, crisis lines and now the Gay Community Center of Richmond but the motivation remains the same- the desire to give back to the community I reside in and to have an impact on that community. My assignments have ranged from troop leader to board chair and from a local council to national and international committees and assignments.
Most definitely, there are challenges to juggling full time work, personal life and volunteer commitments but the outcomes outweigh the occasional €˜dropped ball'. Thankfully many non-profit organizations have adapted to the changing demographics of volunteerism. There are more short term assignments as opposed to a year long, weekly time commitment as a troop leader. Creative scheduling for meetings and training sessions find those occurring online, at local coffee cafes in early morning hours and late afternoons so that it is possible to chair a board meeting and still have the meeting adjourned in time for folks to have dinner with their family.
Another aspect of successful juggling of priorities and commitments is knowing your own limits and time management. There are times, I've politely declined to serve additional terms on a board, or take on another assignment beyond the initial commitments I've made to an organization. While an organization may express disappointment initially when you decline, ultimately you are respected for knowing your own limitations and not taking on more than you can deliver.
My own somewhat self serving reason for serving in volunteer capacities is the change of pace and break from my daily job tasks. I also am able to meet and interact with folks beyond my own neighborhood or professional affiliations. The variety of experiences helps build my skill set and expands my network of colleagues. I have maintained contact with previous camp staff members, guest speakers I've transported to or from airports and even an impromptu putting lesson from a LPGA golfer after volunteering at a charity tournament. In short, volunteering gives me opportunities I would not necessarily have any other way.
When we open our minds and our hearts to the possibilities of what we can do for others, we are surprised by how easy it is to make great things happen. But it all starts with you and what you'd like to do. Are you passionate about working with people, communities, wildlife, the environment or preserving national parks? On the local level, you can find out about needs in your own backyard through the Points of Light Institute (www.pointsoflight.org). Volunteering can also be spontaneous. Whenever I arrive in a new locale, the first thing I do is go to a community bulletin board, in front of the post office, town hall or library. Whether planned or spontaneous, volunteers are people who give and receive. My experience is I ALWAYS receive far more than what I give and so I keep on trying out those juggling skills.