How volunteering can enhance your earnings potential

A few years ago I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. I love the work they do to create affordable housing, but I also had another motive: I wanted to learn valuable skills. I framed houses, set up sidings and painted inside and out.

The experience led to paid painting jobs and I enjoyed the job. Now that I call myself a painter, I have new job opportunities or could even open a painting business.

Volunteering with nonprofit organizations offers the opportunity to help others while supporting your own financial future.

In addition to the satisfaction of contributing to something that is close to your heart, here are some of the personal benefits you can get as a volunteer:

  • A better resume.
  • Marketable skills.
  • Knowledge that is needed for future business.
  • Networking opportunities.
  • A job with the organization that you volunteer for.
  • A job at a company or nonprofit that does related work.

Volunteering builds skills – and even a better salary

Working as a volunteer can help you improve your resume quickly, and that could help you make more money later. You may not notice it at this point, but if you wrap meals on the assembly line, have interviews with those seeking help, or help create a community garden, build up all the skills that can make you a more attractive employee.

This also applies to the modern job market. For example, if you volunteer to manage Facebook and Twitter accounts for a local charity, you can add social media management to your resume. Managing the phone bank for some charitable fundraisers gives you call center experience.

The skills you develop and the knowledge you acquire as a volunteer can be valuable in a number of ways. They can lead to jobs and companies, yes. But when I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, I thought of it as an investor. I wanted to do rehabilitation work on houses so that I could feel more comfortable buying, repairing and selling a house at a profit.

How volunteering can expand your professional network

If one of your goals is to make professional contacts, you are in good company. Many professional connections are made in active community organizations. Your boards of directors are usually staffed with prominent business people. So take part in every event and meet with networking.

Your goal might be to get a job in the organization where you volunteer. Two of the crew managers I worked with at Habitat for Humanity had been on the payroll for over 15 years, but both started as volunteers. Sunshine, a DJ from the community radio station KKFI, started as a volunteer before she was hired for her own show. Stories like yours are common.

Of course, this voluntary time on Radio Sunshine could have led to a job at another radio station. Once you have that experience on your resume, there are many options.

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Find the best volunteer positions

Practically every community across the country has organizations that do meaningful work – and they always need extra hands. The best opportunity for volunteers is one that awakens your passion and gives you a sense of accomplishment. It can be something that uses skills that you already have and that you will use for a good cause. Or it teaches you something that opens new avenues, like a Habitat volunteer becoming a real estate investor.

If you are new to an area and are not familiar with the organizations, you can find opportunities online. A great resource is Volunteer Match. You can enter your location on their website and you will be asked to select a category or search for keywords. If you live in a small to medium-sized city, just click the search button without typing anything to get all the results.

Steve Gillman is an employee of The Penny Hoarder.

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