Bloom Where You’re Planted

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Photo courtesy Macretia Moody (afplsvolunteerserv) on Photobucket.

If you work for a nonprofit, dealing with volunteers—recruiting, keeping, and appreciating them—are probably a big part of your life. Volunteers make big things happen for many of us, and some of our best stories come from the experiences, actions and antics of our “donors of time.”

Relatedly, I often think about whether nonprofit professionals volunteer, and  if they don’t, why they don’t. I used to volunteer all the time at my organization; in fact, I started here as a volunteer before I was a staff person. Sometimes volunteers make the best employees because of their passion for the cause. But over time, my devotion and desire to do good led me to volunteer for my organization outside of work hours. As you can imagine, this rapidly led to burnout. Sometimes, if the burnout is too profound, good people can be lost, be they volunteers or staff, and that doesn’t serve anyone well.

As professionals, we know full well the benefits of volunteering. We tout them everyday to others, and use them to make our cases for community involvement to our funders. When presented with volunteer opportunities of our own, however, many of us don’t take them. “I am already doing good things for the world at my job,” you may say, or “I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest between my job and my volunteer work.” I am as busy as the next guy; even I made those excuses at one point.

Then I realized that, above all, that volunteering made me feel good. I didn’t have to volunteer for my organization; I could volunteer for other organizations that made me happy, and who I thought were doing good work and fulfilling their mission in an exceptional way. And fortunately, I was close enough to the nonprofit world to identify them and seek them out. I could work on the phone bank of my local Chamber of Commerce, walk dogs at the animal shelter, work with women and girls through our local Zonta Club. In addition to the feel-good factor, I could enjoy the added benefit of forging positive relationships with people in my community, enabling me to have a more human interaction with them later on. They could eventually want to get involved in my cause. The realization that being a volunteer made me a better Development Director was a revelation.

In the plant world, a volunteer is a plant who isn’t intended for a place, but springs up there anyway. Often, these plants (at least for those who are open-minded) add their own kind of beauty to a space by inserting colors where they may be none. Your community and your world is sure to benefit from the color that you bring to it, no matter where you’re planted.

P.S. Don’t forget to celebrate National Volunteer Week at your organization, April 21-27, 2013.

Which organizations do you volunteer for outside of your job? Any anecdotes to share?

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Posted on March 21, 2013, in Developing Relationships, Gratitude and Recognition, Team Work, Volunteerism, Your Career and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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