The Power of the Volunteer
How lending a helping hand is essential for all nonprofits
This post was originally uploaded to the Everyday Superhumans blog. Everyday Superhumans is a podcast dedicated to promoting community involvement through interviews with nonprofit and small business founders and directors. We aim to inspire people to go out and make a difference in their community.
We spend a lot of time here at Everyday Superhumans speaking with the directors of various nonprofits, we choose to speak with them mostly because they have the vision for the organization, and their leadership provides direction. However their role, as important as it is, shouldn’t overshadow the many volunteers who work countless unpaid hours for a cause they too strongly believe in. The directors are just the head, the volunteers are the backbone.
Volunteering is an important and rewarding experience on all ends, it allows nonprofits to divide the workload, raise funding and awareness, and most importantly it will make you, and your community, happier.
A Helping Hand
If your a director of a nonprofit you have a lot of work to do. There’s finances that need to be taken care of, marketing to get your word out, paperwork that needs to be filled, partnerships that need to be established with others, by the end of the day you’ll barely have enough time or energy to do the work you actually set out to do. This is why the power of the volunteer is so important.
Recently we spoke with the RuffTail Runners (episode coming October 4th), they’re a volunteer organization dedicated to giving sheltered dogs the exercising and socializing they need to live a healthy and fulfilling life while in the shelter. RuffTail Runners (RTR for short) began as only a handful of people with a few hours to spare to run and walk the dogs. It was a noble cause, but if you only had a few people with only a few hours to spare a week, it would be impossible to take out the hundreds of thousands of sheltered animals in Austin. So they expanded, they began recruiting volunteers, and holding monthly training sessions on RTR’s goals and proper handling of the dogs, each volunteer took of the stress of a high demand workload off of the founders.
If there is a cause out there you strongly believe in, I bet you would volunteer as much as you could, just to see it through. And with each helping hand you lend to the nonprofit, the more effective the cause becomes, plus you’ll be helping the founders get some much needed shuteye.
Spreading the Word
Marketing is hard. Like really hard, we’ve put in so many hours and dollars into getting the word out for Everyday Superhumans that we empathize with anybody who has to go through the marketing process, it’s tiring but rewarding. As a volunteer you make it much easier for a nonprofit to get their message across, and increase funding.
According to the book Doing Good Better (a book I highly recommend everyone to read), volunteers, both former and present, are the best source for funding and awareness in all nonprofits. Naturally you volunteer because it’s something you believe in, and when you believe in something you tell everybody about it. (Example: I believe Game of Thrones is the greatest TV series of all times, and I will not hesitate to bring it up when the conversation goes to favorite TV shows).
Former and present volunteers are more likely to recruit their friends and family to join, they are most likely to donate, even years after they left, and most importantly they are now a face of the nonprofit. Going back to RTR, there are plenty of people who run around Town Lake in Austin, if they see somebody jogging with a dog and wearing a RuffTail Runners shirt, they might think “Hey, I want to run with a cute dog too! Where can I sign up?”
Bringing a Smile to Your Face
In another great book, Give and Take, by Adam Grant, he explores the psychology of giving versus receiving (taking). What he found is that people who volunteer a maximum of 2 hours a week rank themselves higher in both happiness and well being. This is true for any and all volunteers, it doesn’t matter the role or work they do. So why would spending time on unpaid labor make people happier?
Well, first of all, the people who volunteer actually want to be there, they don’t have to be there. Youhave to be at your job to get paid so you can survive, but you want to volunteer because it’s something you believe is worth doing. It’s like a job you chose to have versus one you have to have.
On top of being able to work on something you want to do, volunteering also leads to visible results. The results can be from seeing a happy dog from a long run, or more people coming up to your booth at a fundraising event, you get to see your effort pay off immediately.
Most importantly of all is that volunteering is something you believe in, and as humans we need something to believe in. In my own personal life Everyday Superhumans is something I believe in. Do I get paid for it? Not one cent, but would I lose countless hours of sleep working on this project? Yes I would, and have had done many times in the past. Having something to believe in makes us feel complete, which is why it’s important to choose a charity to put your time to wisely, look through your local listings on Volunteer Match, or Charity Navigator, and find one that will put a smile on your face at the end of the day, as you think to yourself: “I made a difference today!”
In the anatomy of a nonprofit, the head is the board of directors, and the volunteers are the backbone. As a volunteer you will help relieve the many stresses that come about as a founder or director of a nonprofit, you yourself will become a face of the organization, allowing the nonprofit to grow in volunteers and donors, and most importantly you will see a significant change in happiness at the end of the day. And with happy people, comes a happy community.
So go out there, and volunteer! I’m sure there’s an adorable dog out there who needs another running buddy
For more on the organizations we support check out our Support the Causes page. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Android for more superhuman inspiration!