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Should You Volunteer Your Specialized Skills to a Nonprofit?

When we volunteer at charitable organizations, we often do so because we are passionate about the cause. We might not care if the work is unskilled, as long as we’re cleaning up our city’s river, fundraising for cancer, or collecting in-kind donations for a food bank.

But increasingly, people are volunteering with nonprofits as a way to practice (and donate) their most specialized skills. For instance, photographers are partnering with charities to raise awareness for the causes they care about. Doctors are donating their skills to underserved clinics around the world. With skills-based volunteering (SBV) on the rise, you too can have a positive social impact in your community by doing the things you do best.

Wait . . . What is Skills-Based Volunteering?

Skills-based volunteering is exactly what it sounds like! According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, “Skills-based volunteering means leveraging the specialized skills and talents of individuals to strengthen the infrastructure of nonprofits, helping them build and sustain their capacity to successfully achieve their missions.” The popularity of SBV is growing; over 50% of companies with a volunteer program are doing skills-based volunteerism.

You don’t need to be part of a corporate volunteer program to participate in SBV. With 96% of nonprofits reporting a need for skilled volunteers, there is ample opportunity to donate your skills!

What are the benefits of SBV?

There are many benefits to donating your professional skills to the nonprofit sector. Here are just a few of the ways that your SBV makes an impact:

  • You’ll save a nonprofit money. When you volunteer your specialized skills, you are saving a nonprofit quite a bit of money. The average monetary value of an hour of volunteer work is $23.56 for unskilled labor. But if you were to donate one hour of skilled management consulting, you’re saving a nonprofit the $43.38 they’d have to pay a non-volunteer. You can see how quickly the value of these skilled volunteer hours accumulates. One study suggests that skilled volunteers expand an organization’s reach by 35%, and their efficiency and effectiveness by 28%.
  • You’ll hone your skills and gain experience. While donating your skills to a nonprofit, you’ll gain invaluable experience in your field of expertise. This may be especially true if you are a young professional or a college student. After all, 73% of top employers are more likely to hire a candidate with volunteer experience. Furthermore, 94% of employers think that volunteers learn skills that they could later apply in their work. In equal numbers, employers believe that volunteering can continue to improve career skills, even after you’ve been hired. Working for a nonprofit will allow you to practice your talents while gaining professional experience, helping your community, and making an impact in your field.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to network. Volunteering is a great way to expand your networking circle while saving a nonprofit money and sharpening your skills. When you volunteer, you’ll come into contact with other volunteers who are like-minded and support the same causes you do. Volunteering can provide a fantastic setting to cultivate professional contacts.

How should you get started?

If you want to donate your skills to a nonprofit, you should first look locally. You can either approach organizations individually, or you can check with your community’s volunteer center or United Way. Sometimes desired skills will be specifically advertised, but you may also have to write an email specifying how your expertise could be beneficial to the organization.

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