If you think volunteering is just about soup kitchens and charity shops, think again. Pro bono work is becoming more valuable, especially if you have project management skills to lend.
What does volunteering mean to you? Planting trees? Teaching English in an underdeveloped country? Serving tea at a retirement home? I recently heard about friend’s grandmother, a spry 92-year-old, who still climbs flights and flights of stairs to deliver Meals on Wheels to recipients two decades her junior. I like this story so much that I often employ it when trying to persuade people to volunteer.
It’s National Volunteer Week this week and I’m in a confessional mood: I’m a serial volunteer. Over the next few days I’ll be supervising dozens of volunteers at the annual Sydney Writers’ Festival, the biggest literary festival in Australia. This is my eighth year as a volunteer and, having caught the pro bono bug early, I’ve added other festivals, conservation efforts, youth group leadership and, yes, working at a charity shop to my volunteer experience since that first foray.
However, while I love getting stuck into all those small but important tasks that make up any volunteer role, it dawned on me recently that I’m yet to find pro bono work that uses my skills in written communication. Whether this is an oversight or my subconscious telling me to do something different with my spare time I’m yet to discern, but this observation led me to realise what a valuable and diverse skill set project managers have to offer.
Volunteer programs, such as building a school in Bangladesh or helping a charity run a fundraising event, could do with someone skilled in project management, leading to the satisfying feeling of a job well done for a deserving organisation. Your contribution doesn’t have to be restricted to this type of community service, however. Project management associations are largely run by members who volunteer their time to take part in committees, organise events and help the organisation run smoothly. The result? Good for networking, great for your career and so valuable for project management.
So how about it? I know you’re busy, but the proverbial is true: if you want something done, give it to a busy person and I’d like to give the idea that you can make a difference to you. And you’re a project manager! If you can project manage your house renovations and make arrangements for your next holiday outside of your day job, surely you can spend a few hours a month giving back? As Volunteering Australia proclaims in this year’s theme, ‘Every One Counts’ and I know project managers can be counted on to deliver.