Volunteer your Way to a Paying Gig
By Lauren Bayne Anderson
April 21, 2009
When the economy suffers, so do organizations that rely on volunteers — at least traditionally.
But according to one source, not only can volunteering remain strong in times of economic concern, it can also help the volunteer gain necessary job skills to re-enter the job market.
The most recent Giving in Tough Times study, produced during the last economic downturn in 2003, showed that when Americans aren’t concerned about money, they tend to volunteer more—53 percent volunteer when they have no money concerns compared with 40 percent in a tough economy.
And the less a volunteer makes, the more likely they are to cut the extra curricular activities out of their calendar.
The study shows that volunteer rates for those making from $50,000 to $75,000 fall by 10 percent when money issues arise. And only 27 percent of volunteers earning between $25,000 and $50,000 volunteer when concerned about finances—down from 36 percent in a solid economy.
But according to Robert Rosenthal, a spokesman for VolunteerMatch, this time around it may be different.
Volunteering tends to be countercyclical, Rosenthal said. And having more spare time and being more concerned about social and environmental problems can actually generate more involvement, despite an economic downturn.
And with the increased use of the Internet to find volunteer opportunities, data from previous recessions may not reflect today’s volunteer market.
“There’s an increasing prevalence of a certain kind of volunteering that makes far more sense — volunteering that develops professional skills,” Rosenthal said. “More volunteers have been doing skill based work in the past couple years.”
Rosenthal says volunteers can find skill based work in many professional sectors. Pro-bono legal services, graphic art design, grant writing, accounting, copywriting and HTML and database programming are at the top of his list.
So in addition to doing the right thing, volunteering can actually help you develop the skill set that will put you right where you want to be— back in a position to getting a paying gig.