Serving by Example: Why Volunteering Can Change How You Lead

Serving by Example: Why Volunteering Can Change How You Lead

When I worked at Georgian Court University, we had four “floating holidays” where the university was open and it allowed for staff to stagger time off. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day happened to be one of those days. Except in my position. Each year, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., we would coordinate a day of service for student leaders to give back to the local community. We closed out the day with a reflection, focusing why we should serve those less fortunate than us.

This became an even more powerful event when Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012. GCU is situated less than 15 miles from the beach, with university faculty, staff and students living on the beach. People’s homes, cars, laptops, textbooks were destroyed. Since service was already an integral part of the GCU experience, now it was time to put it in high gear for our own family who needed us.

We collected non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, clothes, sneakers, old laptops, speakers, old edition textbooks, etc.. If you name it, we were collecting it. When people lose everything, you stop asking, “Should I donate this?” At that point, the answer is immediately “yes.”

Looking back, there was no question that those who were able would help in any way we could. We sent out emails and made phone calls, checking on people in areas most affected and collecting a list of what they needed. And then we went to work. We created a site that would match people based on what they were able to provide, whether it was a laptop or an extra room to live.

“Through service learning, today’s corporate volunteers are becoming tomorrow’s corporate leaders — with great potential to impact the decisions they make on behalf of their company.” 
-Stanford Social Innovation Review

The Breakdown

According to a summary CNN did of a study released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people aged 35-44 were the most likely to volunteer. Overall, volunteerism is valued at $184 billion dollars per year, says volunteerhub.com On average, people volunteer 50 hours annually and usually only to one organization or cause.

Here’s the thing: “60% of hiring managers see volunteerism as a valuable asset.” So if you are looking for a job, list your volunteer work! And if you are looking for an employee, look for volunteer work.

The Benefits

Volunteering does more than fill pantries. Here are my four favorite of the amazing benefits of volunteering:

  1. Corporate partnerships! More and more companies have been creating philanthropic relationships to financially support local and national causes. These partnerships also increased employee retention, skill development and sense of purpose. Amazing!
  2. It’ll teach you the things you don’t learn in school. Since my days in the classroom (it’s been a while), there has been a shift from teaching soft skills – how to write a check, compose an email, shake someone’s hand – to the hard skills, the testable parts of education. For example, in some volunteer settings, you may be faced with a problem that would be easily solved with technology. You’ll need to rely on soft skills to make something happen. Would you be able to it?
  3. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Or rather, who you serve peas next to at Thanksgiving dinner. Meeting new people expands your network, which could lead to an introduction that leads to your dream job. Volunteering, especially in different places, can teach you what you like and don’t like in a work setting, without having to go through HR. If you’re not sure what you want to do after college or after your current position, volunteering can offer clarity.
  4. You can live longer! That’s right, Habitat for Humanity published an article citing research by the Harvard School of Public Health that volunteers spent 38% fewer nights in a hospital than their non-volunteering counterparts. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Volunteering can also make you more confident, reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, help you lose weight, develop emotional stability, combat loneliness… the list goes on!

The most important benefit to volunteering is that it creates community. And that’s kind of our thing. We love seeing people come together to learn, grow, help, serve – and not just for Instagram likes and follows. As you leave an impact on your community, it leaves one on you too. Want to incorporate more opportunities for service on your team? Start here.

“The essence of life is to serve others and do good.”
-Aristotle

How has your team left an impact on your community through volunteering? Share your experiences below!

Melissa Ruiz
melissa@swiftkickhq.com

I train teams and their leaders to create a culture of connection. Free Hugger. Fitness Enthusiast. Taco lover. IG: melissa.a.ruiz

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