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September 9, 2015

Maximize Your Volunteer Hours

By Camille Gaddis, Community Relations Action Team Volunteer & Volunteer Tracking Coordinator

Meg Foreman - YPW Program & Marketing Manager

When we are busy juggling work, family and other activities it can be difficult to fit volunteering in our schedule. It doesn’t matter how many hours you are able to volunteer, each hour you give is meaningful. Not only does it help an organization, but it has the ability to make a difference in your life as well. This blog will give hints on how to make the most out of your volunteer time to maximize the benefit for you and those around you.

  • Build new friendships and strengthen existing ones

Get a group of friends together and plan a fun volunteer project. What could be better than spending time with your friends and helping others at the same time? Many groups of friends become even closer after they team up for a project and it is something that can make a big impact on people’s lives. If you love your friends but want to meet new people, volunteering can fill that need as well. Signing up for a volunteer project can introduce you to people from diverse backgrounds with a wide range of talents who are as passionate and caring as you.

  • Impressive list of references

Use contacts that you meet during volunteer projects as personal or professional references. This can include project leaders, organizational administrators or fellow volunteers. These community members are appreciative of the time and effort that you have given to the organization and they want you to continue volunteering for them. They have seen you interact with others and many times have seen your skills at work so they are the perfect people to use as references. If given enough notice, they could also be asked to give letters of recommendation based off the work you have done.

  • Expand your talents

Look for volunteering opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone and teach you a new skill. For example, if you want to strengthen your math skills you can collaborate with others to organize a budget for a project or help an organization with surveys. Do you know a second language but don’t have many opportunities to practice? Become an interpreter and help those in need bridge that language barrier. People who are not fans of nature can volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or a community garden and learn a new appreciation for the great outdoors. Volunteering out of your comfort zone can help you become a well-rounded person, give you a new perspective of the world and improve many areas of your life.

  • Every minute counts!

As a general rule of thumb among charities and non-profits, the time you spend driving to a volunteer activity counts as volunteer hours – be sure to count that time!! This can add up quickly if you are driving 20 minutes or more one way to volunteer.

  • Put your new skills to use

Include experiences and skills that you have used in your volunteering in résumés and cover letters for career advancement and opportunities. The reference book How to Write Better Résumé and Cover Letters states that “Experience is experience whether you are paid for it or not. If the position or the knowledge you gained is relevant to your current job search, then list it on your résumé.” Key words such as strategic planning, budget and marketing that are useful for career building can all come from volunteer experience.


Whether you volunteer one hour a month or one hour every week, it can all help you reach your goals and have new experiences. Above all, make sure you are having fun so you will keep coming back again and again. And don’t forget to record your hours on the YPW Volunteer Tracking system! If you don’t remember if you recorded a volunteer activity or not, feel free to contact me and I would be happy to give you that information. Happy Volunteering!

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