Volunteering…

… or one way to get started doing not dreaming

I used to have a picture of those people who “volunteer”. In my mind they are elderly ladies who don’t so much care for the cause they are working towards, but merely see this as an opportunity to exert some power – not least in insisting that something is done that way because it always is.

Over ten years ago when I actively volunteered for the first time in my adult life, my expectations were pretty much lived out. The other people volunteering in preparing hampers for the needy at Christmas seemed to have little appetite for working efficiently, and over the three years that I did it, everything happened the same way. I definitely felt that most of the people were volunteering for themselves rather than to give to the cause. At first this made me question people’s motivations, after all, I had plenty of things to do but I had chosen to donate my time to this cause; but later I realised the value of the volunteering opportunity to both the volunteers and the cause. And in the years since, the importance of volunteering to the volunteer is something that has risen up my scale of importance.

At a basic level volunteering can give you a purpose. It can make you feel part of a community and give you a reason to get out of bed and out of the house. The increasing dis-connectedness of our connected society means that more people have less contact with their fellow humans than is good for us. Finding people who have common interests or who are in a similar situation is an antidote to loneliness.

From this, volunteering can lead to personal development – subtly encouraging new skills of confidence and communication. The challenge of mixing in a group that may vary from your peers enables you to learn from them in a non-formal way.

Volunteering also gives an opportunity for career development and for developing the softer skills that you need for the workplace. How much better to develop minute taking and managing a meeting from your local sports club committee than a 1-day classroom based course in your workplace?

My longest stint of volunteering (one which I’m set to repeat) is for Cricket without Boundaries which started with a two week project trip to Uganda. My skills set expanded hugely and now includes sales and marketing (fundraising doesn’t happen by itself), communications and planning (from coaching large groups of children), creativity and problem solving (Africa doesn’t usually follow the plan that you may have set up).

The biggest impact was on my confidence: it was a stretch of my comfort zone to sign up to spend two weeks with complete strangers, to teach a sport I knew little enough how to play myself and to travel to a new country, somewhat off the beaten track. Now I’m more likely to take the lead, to take up opportunities that come my way and to be creative in addressing problems differently.

If you can volunteer, please do so. Not only does it help so many things happen that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, but it’s OK for you to get something out of it too. I’m not suggesting you take an unpaid internship, but get involved in something you like and see what difference it makes.


There’s nothing to lose in doing not dreaming. Find a way to get started – like volunteering at parkrun to see how you feel about running events – taking action is the only way to get your dreams done.

If you are stuck with getting started, get in touch to chat about how I can help.

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