FYI Blog

The Hidden Benefits of Volunteering

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
~Native American Proverb

Ann S. Bio Photo170Last month, Avalon encouraged our readers to get out of the office and get some perspective on your fundraising program by attending a fundraising conference. Another great way to gain perspective is to immerse yourself in your organization’s mission through volunteer work.

This past weekend, I did just that by volunteering for the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a group dedicated to building the next generation of conservation leaders by engaging them in hands-on service to the land. SCA held a Find Your Park Day of Service to help preserve Greenbelt Park in Greenbelt, Maryland, for residents and visitors. Hundreds of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds came out to clean trash and debris, remove invasive plants, paint National Park Service buildings, and construct picnic tables.

edited - Tire rescueI was on trash duty along an extensive stretch of the park that borders a major highway. My group of about 50 or so volunteers filled and recycled several dozen trash bags with beer and soda bottles, plastic bags, and fast-food containers.

As I walked along a creek, I heard a young volunteer cry out, “[Expletive], there’s a tire!” I looked around frantically but didn’t immediately see a tire until she pointed to the water, where one was buried deep in the muck. (It was then that I understood the expletive.) Since my shoes were already soaked from walking through the creek, I offered to wade into the water and pull out the tire. It was small but heavy with mud and stones. Once I had liberated it, the young lady rolled the tire up the steep embankment so the National Park Service could pick it up, along with the more than 80 other tires we recovered that day.

Edited -Team Leader TomOne of the highlights of the day for me was meeting Tom Mason, an SCA team leader (pictured right). Tom deployed his infectious smile and enthusiasm to motivate the troops, along with energizing words and high-fives. In addition to his work with SCA, Tom interns at Rock Creek Park and hopes to land a full-time job in conservation. He truly embodies the conservation ethic and leadership skills that SCA is cultivating in our young people. Had I not volunteered that day, I would not have had a chance to meet and be inspired by Tom and his fellow leaders.

So take some time out of your busy schedule to volunteer. Even an hour or two will help you better understand and appreciate the impact your organization is making and why the funds you are helping to raise are so critically important.

See below for a full slideshow of photos from Anne’s SCA Find Your Park Day of Service: