Monday, February 17, 2014

Community Service - What I Learned

Last May I had the ingenious horrible naive fantastic idea of volunteering for our local government (we're a small town) and I wanted to share what I learned from my experience with anyone who is looking to volunteer and share their talents.

* It's not just about you.  Okay, this is pretty much obvious and I knew this from the get-go, but you'd be amazed how many people who either serve on council or on committees who think that whatever project their working on is all about them.  Keep your eyes open and pay attention to the facts and issues at hand, and don't let anyone else's opinions (however intoxicating they may be) influence you.

* It's not your "baby".  I admit, after pouring my heart and soul out into completely updating and revamping their website, it felt like my baby ... my personal little project.  I'd find myself double and triple checking every link, code, etc to make sure everything was working in tip top shape.  But at the end of the day, that "baby" doesn't belong to you so you may have to let it go ...

* You'll meet and make new friends!  You have to reach out and contact practically everyone in your town, so get ready to make new friends and at the least, a ton of new acquaintances!

* It will feel like a part time / full time job.  And quite honestly, it is.  You will be working on projects (depending on what you volunteer for) anywhere between 10-40 hours a week ... and all for FREE!  That's right, no pay, baby.  If you can't hack it, walk - no, run away now!  You are not going to get paid, and you have to be okay with that.  And trust me, people will try to work you like a dog whether you're getting a paycheck or not.

* It feels great reaching out to your neighbors and community.  When you hear from so many people in your community that have visited your website, tuned in to your channel or seen a flyer you made and have been able to take advantage of a great program it makes you feel proud of your work an your committee.  It's one of the best feelings to know you've helped people and that they truly appreciate it!

* Know when it's time to say goodbye ... I had to make a hard choice earlier this year and decide whether I was going to continue offering my time and services for 40 hours a week for free, or pursue a different path which would allow me to follow my heart and dream as an illustrator, plus focus on my home-based business full time.  I ultimately chose to leave my volunteer job into the capable hands of my fellow committee members, knowing I just didn't have the time or effort involved anymore to dedicate to it.

In the end, it was a great experience and I learned a ton not only about my community as well as made new and friends.  There are something things I would have changed about what I did (had I known some of these tidbits) but in the end, I was happy with how things turned out and glad I was able to volunteer.

Be aware, I'm not discouraging anyone from volunteer work!  It's great and essential to have people who are there helping in our communities!  It's good, though, to know some important facts before committing to any projects.  I know that for me at this point in my life, spending 40 hours a week to work on various projects and not getting paid ain't gonna pay the bills, which means it's a no no for me right now.  Have you ever done volunteer work on a semi permanent basis for your community?  Share your experience in the comments section!