by Robert Wood, Social Media Advisor – Prison Scholar Fund

I love volunteering. I’m actually writing this article as a volunteer. I’ve taught various courses, tutored college and GED students, and served as an at risk youth mentor, all as a volunteer. The benefits of volunteering in addition to the pleasure of giving are win-win. They include the chance to gain valuable knowledge, insight, and experience as you help others; the pure joy of knowing you’re making a difference for a cause you care about; and the opportunity to build your personal and professional networks. These benefits can’t be overstated and the knowledge and experience you gain will follow you for a lifetime, as will many of the contacts you make.

Volunteerism allows you to gain new knowledge and skills while not under the pressure of an actual job. The experience you gain is valued by employers, communities, and the people you help directly. You may start off reluctantly and end up finding out the joy of giving puts just as big of a smile on your face as it does on the faces of those you assist. In many cases volunteering will lead to job offers as an employer have the opportunity to experience your work ethic and you improve at the various tasks you are performing. People treat volunteers very well because they appreciate the help from passionate people whose only motivation isn’t money. This goes a long way and you will usually meet others who are passionate about the same cause in the process. That can be very valuable.

The people you meet in the process of volunteering appreciate your passion and often become lifelong friends, mentors, employers, employees, business partners, or even romantic interests. You almost always meet people who will give you a positive referral if necessary. An individual who diligently and passionately engages in volunteer efforts will usually find themselves forming great personal and professional networks in the process. A surprising thing is that it’s not always the organization, its leaders or employees, or other volunteers who are the great contacts. Sometimes it’s the very people you’re helping whom surprise you with the things and people they know, and can teach or refer you to.

Speaking of teaching, the level of skill and experience you can acquire as a volunteer is invaluable. People are very willing to teach you how to help them in service of a worthy cause. In many jobs they want candidates with prior experience, but it seems there is no way to get that experience. Volunteer work allows you to acquire skills and experience simultaneously. Employees look at volunteer experience favorably because in addition to the skills and competence you’ve gained it also indicates your passion and dedication to something besides yourself.

Why volunteer?

It feels great, people appreciate it, and you learn new skills and meet new people. In addition to that volunteering allows you to apply and hone newly acquired skills, such as those learned in college or trade school, and most organizations which fund scholarships look at volunteerism very favorably. That includes the Prison Scholar Fund.

Why do I volunteer?

Because it’s awesome and I love helping people. Try it!

Robert Wood, our Social Media Advisor, is a volunteer for the PSF. His Tweets can be found on Twitter, @prisonscholars, account under the hashtag #RLW_PSF. He can be reached via any of our social media outlets or emailed at the following address: rlw@prisonscholars.org.

If you’d like to hear more from Robert, please sign up for our quarterly newsletter, where he is a valued contributor. Just submit your name and email address. If you’d like to get involved with the PSF in a volunteer capacity, please email us volunteer@prisonscholars.org.