Skills-based Volunteering: How Your Talents Help Nonprofits

First-time volunteers are often presented with the choice between service-based volunteering and treasure volunteering (donations), which are both important to nonprofits and are options you’ll now easily find on our website. With the former, volunteers are encouraged to contribute through non-specialized services such as joining a soup kitchen, assembling care packages, planting trees, or working the check-in desk at a charity event. The latter, meanwhile, sees ‘would be’ volunteers offer cash or donations in kind to causes they support.

With iVolunteer and other nonprofits, however, volunteers also have an option to engage in what is called skills-based volunteering (SBV) — which has grown more popular in recent years. While there will always be a need for manpower in traditional volunteering activities, nonprofits are beginning to realize how individuals or groups with specific skill sets can be just as valuable given the right projects or circumstances.

Corporations are also catching up to this trend, which is why some are looking to add skills-based volunteering to their Corporate Social Responsibility programs — in part, due to an active demand from the workforce. With SBV, professionals are able to find ways to use their talents, experiences and resources to strengthen the capabilities of nonprofits. What I learned in my time with iVolunteer, for example, is that nonprofits don’t always have access to resources or expertise to manage corporate functions such as communications, website design and fundraising. Functions that can help them operate more efficiently and effectively as an organization.

How skills-based volunteering help nonprofits

Time is a deterrent often faced by those looking to volunteer. It’s why many would defer to treasure volunteering instead of offering labor when attending to their civic duties. While SBV also requires strong commitment from volunteers, it’s a more enticing alternative for creatives, analysts, programmers, accountants and other specialists who want to connect their passions to the causes they care about. It’s an avenue for them to pull something straight out of their wheelhouse and contribute right away. In addition, skills-based volunteering enables nonprofit staff to focus on what they do best — set the organizational vision and leverage their domain-specific knowledge to aid their community.

Skills-based volunteering, unfortunately, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. According to RealizeWorth, SBV can be great for 2nd and 3rd stage volunteers but not as compelling for 1st stage volunteers. For first timers, a great experience in service-volunteering tends to be more valuable and transformative, while skills-based opportunities are usually reserved for those ready to try something that requires more commitment.

While regular activities are invaluable for keeping a nonprofit up and running, they don’t always make optimal use of volunteers’ expertise and skills. Thus, during our annual Volunteer Engagement Training, our Community Relations team encouraged our partners to incorporate more SBV opportunities to their programs. This, of course, is to allow nonprofits to tap the services of individuals who are motivated to volunteer, but are looking to do it through their passions or hobbies. 

SBV also helps nonprofits by democratizing high-skilled labor. As a result, their organization gain access to seasoned professionals who can help develop long-term strategies and systems that support growth, all on a pro-bono basis. The volunteer, on the other hand, finds an enriched purpose in doing what they love by offering their skills to a greater cause. iVolunteer Philippines thrives in this model. Our staff are all volunteers themselves, so we make it a point to put them in a position where they can do what they love and find personal growth in doing so.

How does iVolunteer manage skilled volunteers?

First, let’s take a look at what skills-based volunteering usually means:

  • Individual volunteers, corporate paid/unpaid volunteers, loaned executives, interns
  • Projects completed in a day; short, medium or long-term projects
  • Activities performed during working hours or on personal time
  • Application of all types of skills and talents from professional experience to hobbies

Can you imagine what our organizational chart looks like? It’s a special one, indeed. And for good reason. Without going further into details, iVolunteer is made up of volunteers with skill sets that come from various disciplines. The biggest takeaway for others, in this instance, is that our staff are encouraged to try new things that interest them. We’re against typecasting anyone who takes part in our cause, which is to promote volunteerism and make every Filipino volunteer towards nation-building.

Someone with a technical background may choose to pursue a creative hobby or a different discipline as a member, granted, of course, that they’ll do what they can to deliver under the project they chose.

Architect Inigo Paolo Nino Lagunilla makes for a great example here, as he’s able to exercise his expertise in architecture and design on select opportunities (e.g. Go! Volunteer Expo), while also maintaining an active role as an event organizer and facilitator of our ongoing Social Innovation Challenge. Paolo, for his part, is happy to find a ‘sense of accomplishment’ while taking on a different challenge through volunteering. He explains, “(It’s) different from what I get from my work and yoga teaching. It’s also (become) a way for me to give back and ‘fill my cup’ of social awareness and social responsibility — which I am clearly lacking.”

Like Paolo, Noralyne “Nora” Daylo’s role with iVolunteer isn’t strictly confined to what she’s done professionally. As part of our Community Relations — a dedicated team that works behind the scenes with our partners — she often finds herself engaging nonprofits, attending their events, or helping organize iVolunteer workshops (e.g. Volunteer Engagement Training) for them. A mentor by profession, Nora raves about the opportunity to meet like-minded people within iVolunteer. According to her, “I feel blessed to have found a company that supports me and my passion for life and travel. I feel iVolunteer has a similar vibe […] and I wanted to channel my free time helping build communities, meeting fellow volunteers, and sharing the blessing I once prayed for.”

How can you start volunteering your talent?

Our community partners usually seek serviced-based volunteers, but that doesn’t mean they’re alienating people who are willing to offer their talent to support a cause. Breaking the ice, however, won’t always be that easy. As I mentioned, some nonprofits aren’t quick to identify their need for skilled volunteers. Thus, it may take a brave effort from volunteers to assess the need of a nonprofit and bring it to their attention.

For iVolunteer, it usually means meeting halfway. For our part, the organization carefully takes in consideration what we need on a quarterly basis. This, of course, isn’t as simple as it seems. Since, we’re all volunteers, no one is technically locked in for the long haul. People may go on hiatus, may disappear without notice (yes, it happens), or shift between multiple positions within a calendar year. All things considered, we make announcements online and the rest, really, is up to the volunteers. If we get lucky, people will find us organically. If not, then we carry on with what we have.

In most cases, skilled volunteers do find their way here. One of which is Noelle “Noey” Reyes, who saw iVolunteer’s online posting and joined as a photographer. The first time I met and worked with Noey was for a feature story about Animal Rescue PH, a unique nonprofit based in Tondo. But even before that, she’s been involved with nonprofits which are supporting youth and education.

Aside from being an accounting staff, Noey doubles as a freelance photographer, like her iVolunteer batch-mate Faye Sadiarin, another shutterbug who found iVolunteer on Facebook through a photography group. When asked what prompted her to join, Faye summed it up with an answer that many skilled volunteers can probably relate to. Which is her desire to improve herself and give back to the community through her passion.

I could go on, but it’s basically going to come down to a person’s desire to contribute. Happiness is an inside job, but so as volunteerism. No one, besides the individual, can tell themselves whether or not they’re ready or not to commit to a volunteering journey.

Ready to take the challenge?

Volunteering will always have a potential to become an integral part of one’s personal growth, because it challenges our perception and understanding of our role in the community. On a personal level, volunteering can also help us seek our passion or find new meaning in them. Whether it’s talent, treasure, or service that we are offering, it’s our duty to supplement the growth of our community. As our Executive Director, JB Tan, said, “We owe it to this country to help it become better because it has given us so much in the past.”

Up for the challenge? Visit https://www.ivolunteer.com.ph/ today to learn where you can start volunteering in Metro Manila and other nearby locations.

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