Volunteering remotely is a new trend — give back while gaining valuable skills and experiences virtually, opening up the prospect for more people to get involved and give back.
Gigs might involve mentoring, helping with phone banking or helping organizations promote fund-raisers, for example.
Just because it’s remote doesn’t mean it’s less valuable than an in-person gig, as Brad Deutser, president of Deutser consulting firm and the author of “Belonging Rules: Five Crucial Actions That Build Unity and Foster Performance” (Matt Holt) explained.
“You are still giving and serving others,” he said. “It does not in any way diminish the good and the value you provide. It may force you to work harder to connect with others who share a passion for the same cause and to go out of your comfort zone to connect with them outside the work.”
Other trends include employer-sponsored volunteering, such as group community efforts and paid time-off to volunteer. A new online platform Catchafire matches volunteers with nonprofit organizations for one-hour calls to multi-week projects.
Whichever route you take to volunteering, top brass takes notice. A 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey revealed that 92% of human resources executives said that contributing to a nonprofit can improve an employee’s leadership skills.
Jesse Samberg, co-founder of Third Act, a growth consultancy for small businesses, sought to get more involved with his business community to gain a sense of belonging. So last year, he started volunteering remotely as a mentor with SCORE, a nonprofit arm of the Small Business Administration.
Toggling between working and living in Brooklyn and Millerton, NY, Samberg helps between five to 10 clients each month via video chat or phone. Clients get free support in navigating their business challenges such as marketing strategy, branding, sales and partnerships.
“Most volunteers and clients are fairly comfortable using videoconferencing now,” said Samberg, 36. “Clients love it, because they can meet with mentors from across the country who might better fit their needs. I love seeing that spark in my mentee’s eyes when we crack a big problem together, or getting emails after a session like, ‘Thanks for brightening my day.’ ”
It’s a win for Samberg, too, as he gains insights for his biz. “My experience with SCORE has been invaluable in helping me to better understand the needs and pain points of my paying clients and prospects,” he said.
Terri Wein, co-CEO of Weil & Wein, a New York-based global career advisory firm, said that volunteering can also be a career booster.
“If you volunteered to fund-raise for a charity and increased the charity’s donor base by 20%, put it on your résumé,” said Wein. “Add bullets that describe your business development skills. You can talk about the experience in an interview the same way you would a paid position.”
As you pour your heart into volunteering and beef up your résumé, a professional boon may result — gaining and refining new skills and experiences to land a new job, board seat, make meaningful connections and introductions, references and more.
This happened to Tiffani Hinds, who volunteered as a mentor during the Youth Summit hosted by the Business Council of Westchester in 2019.
Hinds, 42, was then the dean of students at the now-defunct College of New Rochelle. At the event, she heard about the New York Institute of Technology in Columbus Circle and Old Westbury. She looked up the institution and noticed an opening for an interim dean of students. After she connected with the provost via LinkedIn and learned more about the position, Hinds applied, landed the job and started that July.
While her primary volunteer goal was service, the event put a prospective employer onto her radar screen.
Hinds said, “Engaging in volunteer work allows you to meet new people who you might have not ordinarily crossed paths with.”
The summit wasn’t her first rodeo. Hinds is passionate about volunteering and feels “emotionally full from engaging in service.” The New Rochelle resident is a commissioner of the Office of Black Ministry of the Archdiocese of New York, a member of the north Manhattan alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and is on the board of trustees of the Ursuline School. She has organized and participated in service trips in Haiti, Mexico and the US.
Samberg and Hinds take their volunteering seriously, and Talia Fox, CEO of leadership training firm Kusi Global, leadership strategist and author of “The Power of Conscious Connection: 4 Habits To Transform How You Live and Lead” (Ideapress, Nov. 28), said that is key for career success.
“Treat your volunteer role with the same dedication as a paid position. Your reputation is influenced by all commitments, paid or unpaid. Upholding your promises is essential for all future opportunities,” said Fox.
In addition to exposure to new experiences that are ripe for creativity and innovation, volunteering is good for your brand.
“It shows an eagerness to contribute and add value. Those who volunteer are typically viewed as dependable, proactive and team-oriented,” said Fox.
Hinds agreed. “People are watching, and who knows?” she said. “What you’ve exhibited while servicing others could lead to attracting leadership roles and professional offers.”