A Volunteer and a Career

Author: Andrew Eggerding | Source: HCI | Published: May 16, 2011

Volunteering in the community is important to me; maybe that is apparent after the previous musing on a higher purpose. Recently, I led a volunteer project during a city-wide volunteer day, Go Cincinnati. At a local museum and art gallery, I was charged to paint a mural of a 19th century landscape. This was not just a mural, but an involved realistic painting. I needed to channel my inner Thomas Cole.

Planning this painting project and participating in Go Cincinnati was very similar to running a small business, especially when it came to people. I certainly could not paint an entire painting all by myself. Did I mention it’s 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide? There was absolutely no way I could accomplish this in one day; I needed to recruit a team to help me bring the hills and the meadows of a by-gone era in Cincinnati to life.

Scoping the project came first: How large is the space? What was the organization expecting? How many people would I need on my team? I guess you could say I was doing a little workforce planning of my own. And it definitely paid off. The work space for the painting was tight and there was no way a team of more than four people could work comfortably. Even four was pushing it.

If I was going to do this right, I needed talented artists to help me accomplish the project. As luck would have it, I happen to know a few very talented artists. Although not as professional as any other interview might go, I made sure of their comfort level and if they were up to the challenge. Then it was time to plan out the painting.

This volunteer experience is not unfamiliar to other times I have volunteered. Many organizations look for specific skill sets for several different roles. I have been able to use my creative and communication talents as a volunteer at a children’s hospital, reading and playing with patients. Other non-profit organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, will take the time to explain and train specific skills. I certainly had never built a house before, but I can say with confidence that I am now capable of installing vinyl siding on a house. Like businesses today, talented and skilled volunteers are necessary in accomplishing the mission.

When it comes to finding volunteer opportunities, there are local and national organizations that utilize online recruiting, much like a business’ recruiting website. VolunteerMatch is a great example of a volunteer and non-profit interface that allows both to interact with each other and provide a place to learn more about organizations, causes, and volunteer experiences.

After a total of 12 painting hours, the mural was complete and I am looking forward to a few weeks’ rest before taking on a large project again. As I look back on the experiences I have had over the years, I am surprised and encouraged by the similarities between organizations that rely on volunteers and those that rely on paid, employed talent.