When you agreed to head up a committee for your favorite charity, you probably commended yourself for “stepping up”. The finances were in a shambles, the outreach programs were comatose, committee membership had dwindled down to 5… and you volunteered to serve. Now that’s stepping up!
But very quickly, some of the realities of nonprofit leadership have started to set in. Things aren’t getting “fixed” as fast as you’d planned. Everything is taking more time and energy than you ever imaged and you are starting to wonder whether, rather than stepping up, you have slipped up in getting involved at all. Why are you doing this, anyway?
Oh sure, it’s important to provide more shelters for abandoned pets and abused children. Of course we have to keep pushing for the cure for cancer. But wouldn’t be easier to just give money?
Well, easier, maybe. But you would be missing out on some important rewards for yourself. Obviously, volunteering is a great way to network, increase your professional exposure and fatten up your resume. But your personal investment in volunteer leadership also offers two less obvious yet powerful returns: talent development and value fulfillment.
We each have things we know how to do well, talents that we don’t get to use in our day jobs. I may have strong skills in event planning, graphic design or promotion but my current career in insurance underwriting just doesn’t let me use them. And like some many other things, if we don’t use our skills we lose our skills. Stepping up for leadership in areas that need these abilities helps me to keep them alive, develop them and possibly strengthen them enough to consider a career change at some point down the road.
Along the same line, some of my most treasured values simply may not get much play in my day-to-day work. I may really enjoy opportunities for individual achievement, total responsibility for a project, yet find myself working in a huge matrix team setting. Conversely, I may treasure collegiality, close relationships developed as a result of joint work activity. Yet I may find myself traveling solo as an independent consultant. Through volunteer leadership, I can step up for assignments that fulfill values not sustained in my every day work, thus balancing my sense of well-being and making my every day work more palatable.
So, why step up? Step up to feel good using your talents and fulfilling your values as well as serving your community. Then, even when the agency printer chews up your newsletter and a typhoon blows through the day of your walkathon, you’ll hang in. And you’ll know why.