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Skilled/Pro bono volunteering

Most volunteering requires some kind of skill. Even sorting donated clothing requires some reading and critical thinking skills. Bagging rice requires scooping and pouring skills.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Skilled or pro bono volunteering refers to companies and individuals volunteering their professional skills to assist nonprofit organizations in creating or improving their business practices.

Professionals engage the community with diverse and unique skills

While most volunteering requires skill, it's important to highlight opportunities for professionals to lend their specialized skills to the community through volunteering.

Also, "skills" are not only practicing law, medicine, business, technology, and construction. The spectrum of skills includes interpersonal skills like employing empathy and patience, public speaking, mediating conflicts; and creative skills like crafting and theater.

So while one volunteer might have significant accounting experience, another may be adept at taking large complex problems and breaking them down into concrete, tangible steps.

Both volunteers have invaluable skills to contribute.

Examples of skilled volunteering

  • In Vancouver, British Columbia, a hospice volunteer took the many thank-you cards received from grateful families of former patients and compiled them into a creative and heartfelt scrapbook. The scrapbook now resides in the hospice's waiting room where families of current patients — as well as staff and volunteers — can find comfort, and experience connection, with others who understand what they are going through.
  • In Portland, Oregon, a new volunteer for an organization that builds affordable housing came in wanting to help with construction and, in the course of his interview, the volunteer resource manager learned that he had experience garnered from a 25+ year career in urban planning. While the volunteer wasn't interested in volunteering around the planning aspects of affordable housing (now in his retirement, he was seeking new projects to try), he was up for providing advice from time to time. In the end, both parties were happy: the organization had access to his expertise on an ad hoc advisory basis and he spent most of his volunteer time on doing hands-on construction on a worksite.

Assessing your skills

As you prepare to look for your ideal volunteer opportunity, take a few minutes to assess your skills.

  • What are you good at?
  • What comes easy for you?
  • What aspects of your professional life might be assets to an organization or community effort?
  • What personal or interpersonal talents do you have?
    To help you with this exercise, consider going through the following (although by no means complete!) list of potential skills and abilities:
AccountingAdvocacy/LobbyingBeautician/ CosmetologyBlogging
Community OrganizingComputer HardwareCooking/NutritionCopywriting/Web Text
CraftingCreative WritingDanceData Analysis/ Statistics
Database Design/MgmtDocent/Leading ToursEditingElectrical
EngineeringEvent PlanningFinancial Planning/ MgmtForeign Languages
FundraisingGrant WritingGraphic DesignHealth/Medical Experience
IllustrationIT ExperienceJournalismLeadership/Mgmt
Legal/Law ExperienceLegislation/PolicyLibrary ScienceMarketing/Public Relations
MasonryMediation/Conflict ResolutionMentoring/TutoringMusical Arts
Outdoor ActivitiesPhotographyPodcastingProblem Solving
PlumbingPublic SpeakingResearchSales/Retail Experience
Sign LanguageSocial Media/ NetworkingSoftware DevelopmentStrategic Planning
TeachingTelephone SkillsTheater ArtsTranslation
VideographyVisual Arts (Drawing, painting, etc.)Volunteer ManagementWeb Development

Once you've got a good working list of your own skills and abilities, think about how you might want to contribute them.

  • Are there certain things you're good at but just not interested in doing as a volunteer? For example, you might spend your days developing and managing websites but would rather do something entirely different as a volunteer.
  • Conversely, are there certain skills you'd love to develop and are seeking a volunteer position that will help you do just that?

Resources for pro bono volunteering