Designing for Good – 5 reasons to volunteer your skills
by Oliver Ley, Design Enterprise Studio Member, March 2021
Volunteering your skills is amazing! It can be the strongest building blocks for personal growth. This is how volunteering kick-started my Digital Media creative career!
I’m rapidly coming closer to collecting my degree, ‘real life’ becomes full time and I’ve been reflecting a lot on what’s most important to me (as we all have in this pandemic). For me I’ve been doing some soul searching in terms of where my next steps are going to take my life. I needed to understand what makes me tick? What wakes me up in the morning? What has got me to where I am today? I’ve recognised that volunteering has become an integral part of my life affecting nearly all parts of my life from professional to personal.
Everyone’s different, so this isn’t a life hack that works for all! It’s simply me sharing my personal experience, parts of my journey, and the top reasons why you should volunteer your skills and hopefully, if this resonates with yourself, you then find a worthy cause to support. So, why volunteer your skills?
1. You learn loads! (Exeter Pound)
In Exeter College, 16-year-old me created an animated information video for a local organisation called Exeter Pound. From the first presentation from Exeter Pound I knew this was an unmissable opportunity to trial my skills in a real-life scenario. My relations with Exeter Pound blossomed from there and I was more than happy with the opportunity to work alongside the team and create numerous videos that promoted and documented the organisation. You can learn so much from the passionate, driven and outgoing individuals you meet while volunteering.
It was truly a learning experience from writing my first email, to stepping into an office for team meetings. My self-confidence and professionalism grow in the time I spent volunteering for Exeter Pound. I even began to spearhead my own personal project which saw local businesses connect with young filmmakers who were eager for the same opportunity I was given. Surrounding yourself with other people who volunteer is incredibly valuable, sharing knowledge, contacts and experiences with one another allows for learning that formal education just can’t provide.
Volunteering can be a great remedy for low self-confidence, giving you the opportunity to put your skills and talent into real-life practice. I believe self-confidence is a vital element for a healthy personal life and prosperous professional career. Trusting your own abilities, qualities, and judgment can feel like a big ask when you’re just entering the industry. So, volunteering can be a great way to start building those blocks of self-confidence into yourself.
3. You can make a difference (UWE Bristol)
I personally developed and also made a difference while volunteering my time to the LGBT+ community at UWE Bristol’s. From creating campaigns that caught national attention to designing lanyards as a visual message of inclusivity. I took on a cause that mattered to me and applied my skills to produce results that benefited not only the LGBT+ community but my own personal development.
Within my volunteered time the opportunities extended to sitting on UWE’s Stonewall steering group, introducing the UK’s first LGBT+ ‘buddy system’, and achieving the highest engagement of students. While putting in the hard work organising this, I was also able to further my skills in my field of design with creating flyers, banners, badges and even sweets (personal favourite!). Find the cause that matters to you and it will motivate you to work even harder and will have lasting effects for the community and yourself.
I didn’t want to put ‘rewarding’ as it’s to cliché and generic! So I’ve added the word ‘multi-‘ in front of it, which totally changes everything… Along with the other 4 reasons in this list, volunteering is incredibly rewarding because it’s given me sense of purpose in those times that I’ve needed it. You can also see it as free therapy sometimes! You will also be doing work that’s matters, and so it’s feels morally rewarding while also helping you gain lots of experience, skills and knowledge. It’s generally a win win for everyone involved.
5. Exciting opportunities (Bristol Pride)
My pre-Covid job was as an Events and Community Coordinator which was offered to me when I was recognised for my voluntary work within the LGBT+ community. Since Christmas 2019 I’ve been lucky enough to work on the Bristol Pride team. I’ve been given my skills and time to Pride for the last couple of years, from producing videos to graphic design. This opened up doors to many other lines of work and I feel happy that Pride has been able to take me on their team.
I see people longing for an opportunity or job offer that is totally right for them, but this can take years and may come with compromises. I believe volunteering can be a far more flexible way to get to where you want to be. After volunteering for a bit, opportunities will present themselves; some paid and some not, some opportunities you will turn down and others will be exciting for you! For me volunteering has created a wealth of opportunity and took me where I am today.
Putting yourself into the arena of voluntary work can be financially tough. I’ve always been lucky enough to have work that allowed me to do voluntary work alongside. Since I started volunteering my life focus hasn’t been solely around money, as long as my rent is paid I felt right in doing things that fulfilled my life which has great effect on my well-being and also furthered my own personal development, and has allowed me opportunities that I might not have had experienced otherwise.
Using my creativity, skills and time for good has been the most rewarding part of my life for many different reasons. It’s not only got me to where I am today but given me a voice, confidence and meaning. I think it’s beneficial for many reasons, here I’ve only been able to list 5 but there are many more! Volunteering can be what you make it, and for me it’s been some of the building blocks of my own life developments and achievements.
There are lots of ways to start volunteering!
Finding the opportunity to give your skills won’t be hard, but I know more organisations than I can fit on my hands that would love the support of your skills. You can start by just reaching out to a charity, organisation or cause that matters to you. Also you can find useful information and opportunities on these following links: UWE Bristol – Volunteering England – Volunteering Matters – Do It Grow