What You Love Meets the Community: National Volunteer Week

Picture for a moment a funnel. Swirling within the wide portion of the funnel are three ingredients: your skills and aptitudes, your passions, and the needs of your local community and the world as a whole. When the funnel narrows, these three aspects intersect. What you’re good at doing and what you’re passionate about come into contact with and become part of the solution to a challenge your community is facing.

A friend recently shared this metaphor with me, and the image has stood out in my mind during the first part of National Volunteer Week. Envisioning the funnel provides a focused way to think about what it means to volunteer effectively.

Volunteering is first and foremost about the third ingredient: the individual people in your community. About 500 years ago, people began to use the word “volunteer,” initially in association with the military. Today, a volunteer in the military is willing to lay his or her life on the line to protect others. At its core, volunteering in the form of community service is the same; it’s about seeking ways to live life for the sake of others.

The other two ingredients in the funnel make this element of service effective, enjoyable, and energizing. What are you good at doing? What do you love to do? When you use your skills and passions in the context of service, you’ll discover that while volunteering is ultimately about serving other people, it simultaneously contributes to your personal development as well. Check out this Skills Matrix from Hands on Network to see specific ways to enhance a particular skill through volunteerism.

During the rest of this week, consider thinking about how the three ingredients can intersect in your own case, and create a vision for how you can use what you love to do as a way to impact others.

  • To help you find a cause that you’re passionate about and for ideas about creative ways to get involved, take a look at WaysToHelp.org.
  • If you’ve already moved forward with an idea, share your suggestions and stories of what you’ve learned from the experience with others at the WaysToHelp Facebook page.
  • Are you a high school student? Post your project for the upcoming Global Youth Service Day (April 15-17) to http://www.gysd.org/, and remember to take 10 minutes to post your service projects from the 2010-2011 school year to www.YouthServiceChallenge.org to be eligible to win prizes!
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