The Volunteer Paycheck

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December 21, 2009
Yes, I do realize my title terms are mutually exclusive, but the purpose of this post is to discuss how volunteering is many times not something you really do for free.  I know we all talk about how it is important to give back and to donate your time for a good cause, etc.  I am currently feeling a little bit guilty about my own volunteer experiences, particularly of late, as I have to admit that I have yet to give more than I have recieved for my volunteer efforts.

Over the course of the past year, I have been fortunate to be part of a network of volunteers who make up the board for our local chapter of the Society of Human Resource Professionals (SHRM).  Our local chapter, up until last year, was called the Human Resource Association of Central Indiana (HRACI).  My participation over the past 12 months has been almost completely dedicated to the rebranding of our chapter and we are now proudly called IndySHRM and our brand transition is nearly complete.

I mentioned that this has been a 12 month effort which I realize would make anyone associating this project with doing it on a volunteer basis immediately calculate the "time is money" factor.  So, how in the world do I equate my efforts with the local Human Resource chapter of professionals to the work I actually get paid for in the Indianapolis Staffing job? 

My volunteer paycheck #1:

  • Last year at this time I was in transition mode in my career.  Strangely, I was in this mode by choice, not by force.  However, I had not anticiapted the bottom falling out of the economy and local hiring trends plummeting to an all time low soon thereafter.  During this transition time, I was able to stay connected with my network at IndySHRM through my volunteer efforts and therefore remain connected to Indianapolis HR jobs and Indianapolis staffing roles.  This proved to be invaluable, as my next career move came directly from this network. 

My volunteer paycheck #2:

  • When I began working on our chapter rebrand, I was a novice at marketing and websites and a virtual infant when it came to social media.  Through the networks with my committee members, I began to meet and learn from some of the best in the local market in these areas of expertise.  I was able to quickly increase my knowledge about our options, the tools available and how to best use them together.  I made some good friends in the Social media industry who to this day are always there when I need them to advise me on this ever changing concept.  I have since begun to apply my newfound knowledge to how we are communicating and branding ourselves here at That’s Good HR and that alone has demonstrated terrific ROI.

My volunteer paycheck #3:

  • Project management expertise is a non-negotiable when you are embarking on an effort such as this one.  Another area where, while not a novice, I still had much to learn.  This undertaking required me to sharpen my planning skills, manage a large project closely and keep a number of stakeholders up to date on the progress and included in the process.  Another key skill that I have since applied directly to my role in the Government division here at That’s Good HR and it too has paid off.

My volunteer paycheck #4:

  • There is nothing really so rewarding as the self satisfaction of a  job well done.  I know it is not really proper to pat one’s self on the back in a volunteer role, but I just cannot help being very proud of what we accomplished with this project over the past year.  Being recognized for your efforts, being able to provide a service of value and simply having people say thank you is by far the biggest paycheck I could and did receive.  There is no price you can place on that so even without the first 3 bullets mentioned above, I would be extremely well paid if #4 was all there was.

I have recently had some other opportunities to help out on a volunteer basis and each of these have paid me well, so in terms of my own gratification for the opportunity to participate in a worthy cause, I am a very rich woman.