Skills-Based Volunteering: A Beginner's Experience

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Today's guest blogger is John Trotter, an exceptional marketing & communications consultant that we've had the pleasure of working with over the past few months.   Read on for a glimpse of John's  personal experience as a skills-based volunteer.

A few months ago, I found myself temporarily between full-time employment gigs, with an opportunity to consider what I wanted to do with the next phase of my life.  It was time for a few changes, so to speak. Previously, I had enjoyed volunteering as a Big Brother and as a fundraiser for a friend's effort to end homelessness. So, I decided to do some more volunteering — but this time I wanted to volunteer within my area of expertise, which is marketing and communications.

I also had clear expectations of what I was looking to gain from the experience:

  • Exploring and learning about the not-for-profit community to decide if I'd like to work there
  • Networking with interesting new people, and making valuable connections
  • Keeping my marketing and communications skills current

It turns out this quest was more difficult than I had expected! My Google search led me to discover, a site dedicated to matching potential volunteers with organizations seeking time and talent. In these tough economic times fraught with government cutbacks, I was surprised to find few positions looking for the kind of marketing work I could do for them. The vast majority offered simple hands-on roles such as driving seniors and offering drinks to runners at aid stations. And the benefits were often t-shirts, cookies and coffee. Nice perks, but not exactly what was motivating me to contribute my expertise. While contributing to such missions is a worthwhile endeavour, I wanted more — more ways to be engaged, and a wider variety of roles to consider.

Shortly thereafter, Vantage Point contacted me.  I had met with them previously for an information interview related to my job search. They were looking for someone with experience developing a marketing and communications plan on a national scope. I was thrilled, and have subsequently volunteered a significant amount of time and expertise leading this project over the past few months.

What have I learned? That donating my expertise to community can be very rewarding — both personally and professionally. It's also more complex than I had initially expected.  Hundreds of not-for-profit organizations across our country are providing valuable programs and services, and creating critical social change. We must find new ways to connect those organizations with talented community members. I've personally witnessed the magic that can happen as a result!

About the Author

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