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Volunteering: Why you should be selfish and say ‘yes’

“I would love to but I can’t because…”

“Oh, I can’t right now, but please ask me again sometime.”

“No, I can’t do that. Sorry.”


There are lots of different ways of saying “no” to volunteering or helping out with some kind of project and there plenty of articles written and talks given on why busy women should learn to use that word, loud and proud.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re stretched too thin, we just don’t want to and we don’t have to make excuses. But it seems like once we successfully say “no” it gets much easier the next time, and the next time until soon, we’re not involved in much of anything at all except day-to-day rituals.

Not that you should jump on board with every single project, cause or event that comes down the pike, but if you find that you never step up and offer to help — or better yet, lead the way — here are some reasons why you should start doing that immediately. And, these reasons are all about YOU!

First and foremost, it’s a great way to build your resume! If someone asks you to serve on a board or committee and you have the interest and the time to give to it, do it. We’ve been going through some rough waters economically in this country and if you’ve been looking for a job, or a better job, it never hurts to have something different, something new and current on your resume or job application. It’s not that different from teachers encouraging kids to do community service or run for student council. If no one asks you to serve on a board, seek one out. Start at your child’s school. There’s loads of opportunities there, I guarantee it.

Second, getting involved is a great way to learn new job skills. Let’s say the baseball team needs ads sold for the fence, or the drama program needs sponsors in the playbill. You have no sales skills, you say. Someone in that group is good at it and they’ll be happy to give you pointers. Stretch your wings and go ask someone you do business with to buy an ad. Then cold-call a new business. Yes, it’s out of your comfort zone but what better place to try and learn something new! You might find you’re pretty good at it and can use those new skills in growing at your current job or finding a new one. And sales isn’t the only thing. There’s usually a need for:

• Web design and maintenance
• Event planning
• Marketing and publicity
• Fundraising
• Costume design and sewing
• Set design and building
• Getting bids for equipment and maintaining financial books
• Handing other volunteers on a big project
• Teaching
• Administrative duties

And remember even in a volunteer position, there’s room for growth. If you start by copying, collating and hole-punching papers for an elementary school teacher, soon you may be helping with reading instruction and leading a small group discussion with students. Ask for other things to do.

Third, it’s a great way to gain leadership skills. It’s one thing to serve on a committee, but at some point, gather your courage and say, “Yes, I’ll be in charge of that.” Think about what you’ll learn about yourself and how confident you’ll feel when it all comes together. If you’ve never been the president or the chair of an event or project before, start small and you can move up to bigger things. Again, a great skills opportunity and resume builder but you have to say “yes!”

And lastly, your children will see that you’ve stepped up, and out. Don’t think they won’t notice. Kids love it when their parents are involved. They’re proud of you. And, hopefully, it will encourage them to do the same.

These are all selfish reasons why you should say “yes” to volunteering. They’re all centered on what you’re getting out of it. We generally think of volunteering as doing something for someone else and maybe that’s why we can get overwhelmed and exhausted. And while our heart does need to be in the right place and there ideally should be an interest in the organization, event or project, there’s nothing wrong with thinking of yourself as a reason to say “yes.” After all, thinking of ourselves is the reason we say “no.”