Note from the Associate Editorial Director: The benefits of volunteer work
By Melissa Varnavas
The conversation bounced around the importance of building a community of caring. The speakers talked about the development of family and the communities that extended families create. They also spoke of changing societal norms which make geographic, topic-focused, and virtual communities essential to not only personal happiness and wellbeing but also to our professional growth and mental health.
I was listening to a podcast on my commute home the other night, taking this all in, and contemplating our own recent call for volunteers to serve on ACDIS’ boards and committees, thinking about the various communities of caring that being an active participant in the association creates.
During a recent call with the ACDIS Chapter Advisory Board, I asked the group whether they’d be able to remain on as volunteers for 2019 and although a number of the team needed to rotate off, the group offered unanimous accolades for the outcomes their participation.
“The advanced networking and connections that being a part of the Chapter Advisory Board has afforded me has been really tremendous,” said Molly Seibert, past-president of the Oregon ACDIS chapter. “Not only for the interesting information being shared with and by fellow chapter leaders on how to facilitate meetings but as contacts on other concerns and questions I’ve had on a number of CDI concerns.”
Volunteering and helping others can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose, according to an article on HelpGuide.org International. It lists four principal benefits to volunteering including:
- Volunteering connects you to others: These connections lead to innovative ideas CDI staff can incorporate into their own professional toolkit. These relationships often become friendships and these individuals often serve as sounding boards allowing participants to raise concerns and hear a variety of potential resolutions for those concerns. When ACDIS was young and new, CDI professionals often thanked us for simply being a place where they could talk to others about their day-to-day activities, a community where they didn’t need to explain the role of CDI at the outset of a conversation in order to be understood. Volunteering for an ACDIS board or committee takes that connection further and deeper. “I learned so much from my colleagues who sat on the committee with me… My fondest memories have been of simply being able to ‘talk the talk’ of CDI with folks all over the country. Once upon a time, it was rare that I could find anyone who knew what CDI was. When I first got into CDI in 1999, I remember conducting a Google search to learn what it was all about. That search came up pretty much empty. Today, one can get 300,000 relevant hits,” said Tamara Hicks.
- Volunteering is good for your mind and body: Simply sharing your particular area of expertise and experience helps others and helping others, helps you. It increases your self-confidence, boosts your self-assurance, provides a sense of accomplishment as you and the board or committee accomplish tasks that help the larger ACDIS community. “I am so proud of what the Board has accomplished during the last three years. I have personally learned so much from all of my fellow colleagues/friends,” said Anny Yeun.
- Volunteering can advance your career: “Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic,” the HelpGuide article states. Such skills include public speaking, composing and leveraging research results, presentation creation, professional writing, project management, and collaboration strategies, to name a few. Often volunteers are featured on ACDIS Radio, at the national conference, and asked to present on webinar or other media such as in ACDIS publications. And while, ACDIS boards and committees do not provide direct financial compensation there are a number of tangible benefits such as complimentary membership renewal or renewal discounts, complimentary books or webinars, and other discounts. “I’ve met so many wonderful CDI professionals during my tenure on the [ACDIS Advisory Board] and have been in awe of each one of them,” said Karen Newhouser. “I’ve often felt I wasn’t worthy to be in in midst of such a knowledgeable group. I’m leaving the board with friends for life.”
- Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life: “Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life,” the report states. According to Fran Jurcak, current ACDIS Advisory Board, the best part of serving on the board is “the face-to-face meetings at the conference and the ability to network throughout the year with board members and the general membership. I value the relationships that I developed over the past few years and hope that these relationships will continue to support the growth of the profession and membership.”