Volunteer Service: What Makes Sense?


For many of us volunteer service, whether it’s for a nonprofit or a professional or civic association, is a natural evolution of our professional career and personal passions.  If you’re good at what you do (and I suspect you are!) you may have many opportunities to serve.  How do you choose?  Here’s the process I use, in this order.

Is it in your company’s best interest?  If this opportunity furthers your company’s visibility and credibility and fits the corporate culture, then this is probably a yes.  The benefit doesn’t have to be direct (lead to business) so don’t focus solely on that.  Start first with company fit as there is very little volunteer service that doesn’t impact job hours.  Unless you’re the CEO, you’ll usually want to get a higher-up’s buy in.

Does it speak to you personally?  Ideally, the closer it aligns with your passions the more rewarding, and successful, your experience will be.  Service, of any kind, must be genuine.  A few years ago, I joined a small non-profit board because a trusted colleague asked and because I thought I could help, not because of any passion for the work.  My service lasted one year, with little reward and not much effective service.  Don’t waste their time or yours unless you have great interest.

Can I commit the time and effort for what they need?  First, get a clear picture of what this is.  There’s a great article that my colleague Jeff Jowdy wrote that outlines some solid questions.  Ask these and any that help define your obligations.  And, this is important, if you can’t commit, DON’T DO IT.  Recently I was given an incredible opportunity to serve my profession on their state licensing board.  It passed the first two questions with flying colors yet it was clear to me I did not have the time.  I made the tough decision to resign from another commitment (finding a replacement first so as not to leave a hole).  This was truly a tough choice but doing otherwise would have been a misstep.

This is my process.  Do you have any other questions you ask yourself when called on to serve?  Let HerSavvy know!

About Laura Reinbold, PE

Ms. Reinbold explores ways shecan help build our communities, from the geoprofessional side of the engineering profession.

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