One of the things that I like about being a contract executive is that it affords me the time to do some volunteering. I need to admit that I’m one of those people who have difficulty saying “no”, so sometimes I get myself overcommitted. Someone asked me why I do all the things that I do, and my answer is much like it is for being a regular blood donor – I have O negative blood, the universal donor, so I was given this gift and I have an obligation to use it to help others. I feel the same way about volunteering – I have skills and abilities, and there are organizations that need these abilities to do their good work.
Because there is such a need for volunteers, it is easy to get into something which is not enjoyable. I think finding the right volunteer opportunities is much like finding the right job. First and foremost, you need to believe in the work of the organization. Second, you need to understand yourself – what you enjoy and what you’re good at. Do you want to be part of the committee that organizes everything? Do you like to be behind the scenes preparing things? Or do you like to be on the front lines interacting with the recipients of the programs? If you don’t think through this carefully and choose correctly, then you will begrudge the time that you spend with the organization and likely won’t give it your best effort, so you won’t really be adding to the work of the organization. As one of my friends describes it, the time that you spend as a volunteer should be “life giving”.
I really like the thinking behind the requirement that all high school students in Ontario must spend 40 hours in community service. It’s important that we instil the practice of giving freely of their time to our youth. I know of many teens who have done something merely to get their required hours or to beef up their resume, but I hope that there are others who have had their eyes opened to this important part of making a difference to society.