17/08/21, Betty Henderson - Social Good Connect

Volunteering as a Tool for Professional Development

Volunteering as a tool for professional development

Recently, a colleague and I were discussing common misconception that people have around corporate volunteering, and she made an observation that hit the nail on the head:

‘People still consider corporate volunteering to be a fluffy, ‘do-good’ activity which is no more than a favour to the charities. They don’t understand that volunteering is an incredible tool for professional development.’

The opportunities for professional development that volunteering present are so severely
underrated that in the 2019 NCVO Time Well Spent survey, only 12% of respondents thought that volunteering would ‘help [them] get on in [their] career’.

And while the main reasons for getting involved with volunteering will almost always be ‘to help people’, the personal and professional benefits that come of it are undeniable.

At Social Good Connect, we connect employee with volunteering opportunities that support their own goals and the causes they care about every day. Here are the top three reasons to consider volunteering as your professional development tool of choice.

1. Networking

According to a global survey by LinkedIn in 2017, ‘almost 80 percent of professionals consider professional networking to be important to career success’. Maintaining a strong professional network can create opportunities, open doors, and even be the difference between getting that new job or not. 

Volunteering is a great way to introduce yourself to a whole new audience of people beyond your existing network and create meaningful relationships with the people you work with.

Beyond the career opportunities afforded by networking, working alongside people with different skillsets is an incredible learning opportunity. While you may think of volunteering as a way to lend your skills for good, we prefer to think of it as a two-way relationship. When speaking to our volunteers, it’s clear that they get as much out of the experience as those they are helping.

Gill Donald, who volunteers as a Non-Exec Director with Catesbi CIC, told us:

‘I’m lending my HR knowledge and skills to a small Board that welcomes the structure and expertise, but the nature of the role means I’m also learning new skills while I’m helping… and I’m definitely stepping out of my comfort zones, which is always good for people to do.’

Helping a good cause, learning new skills, and increasing your network? That sounds like a win-win-win in our book!

2. Explore career options

If you’ve ever felt a little trapped in your career, or wondered if the grass could be greener, volunteering is a great, low-risk way to try out a potential career change before taking the plunge.

There are so many different roles that charities need support with, from web development, to marketing strategy support, copywriting, video-editing, trustee positions, event planning and more – whatever your dream career may be, there will be a volunteering opportunity available!

Many charities often provide training for volunteers in more specialised roles ahead of starting, so this can be a great way to learn on the job and apply your knowledge in real time, all while helping a good cause.

If you’re looking to find a volunteering opportunity to elevate your career, sites like Social Good Connect or Volunteer Scotland are a great place to start. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you could try reaching out to charities directly to introduce yourself and offer your services – they may just take you up on it!

3.Go get that promotion!

According to a survey by Deloitte, ‘80% of respondents said that active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles’ – and we’re not surprised to hear it!

It can often be difficult to get management or board experience in traditional company structures, but having this kind of experience would set you up nicely for that promotion you’ve been after…

So why not become a charity trustee? This type of volunteering is a higher commitment than other, more ad-hoc volunteering roles, but it can be far more rewarding. This is one of the most impactful roles you can take as a volunteer as charity trustees are responsible for the management and overall strategy of the charity. They generally have defined roles such as chair, treasurer, secretary, etc. with different experience and different responsibilities on the board.

Mariam Okhai, Trustee for the International Women’s Centre, Dundee, explains some of the benefits she has experienced as a young trustee:

‘I think being a board member gives you experience and challenges you as an individual. It allows you to see the organisation from a managerial perspective rather than purely operational.

It has also allowed me to develop as a person both professionally and personally. By being in an environment with professionals from different sectors you can gain valuable insight and understanding. Being a board member has opened many doors for me professionally and I would recommend it to anyone looking for career or personal development.’

What next?

You can read a little more about how Social Good Connect supports employees and communities with volunteer matching here, or to find out how your company can get involved – why not give us a call?


Company bio: Social Good Connect makes employee volunteering simple by using their search and match technology to connect employees with their perfect volunteering opportunities. 

Writer bio: Betty Henderson is the Marketing and Communications Exec at Social Good Connect. She volunteers as a telephone befriender for the Royal Voluntary Service and as the Business Editor for Disgraceful Magazine and she’s passionate about creating community impact through employee volunteering.

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