Skills for Impact: Why Skilled Volunteering Matters:
If you have a drive to use your time and talent to help others, you are in the right place! Skilled volunteering is a critical tool in a non-profit’s toolbox, it allows them to build their capacity and grow their impact. “Organizations that fundamentally leverage volunteers and their skills towards their mission are significantly more adaptable, sustainable and capable of going to scale.” A good skilled volunteer uses their expertise to lift the burden from nonprofit staff who may not have pre-existing training or experience needed for a given project.
Getting in the Volunteer Mindset:
Approaching a new organization and a new project is a skill in itself, so we thought that we would give you somewhere to get started. Here are some tips inspired by one of our favorite Jewish quotes from the Jewish wisdom book, Pirkei Avot2:
Who is one that is wise? One who learns from every person, as it is said: “From all my teachers have I gained understanding.” (Psalm 119:99)
Hold a learning posture. You might know tips, tricks, and best practices for a given project, but make sure that you are also listening deeply to the needs of the non-profit and their community. Then you can mesh the two together to create the most helpful outcomes.
Who is mighty? One who conquers their impulse to evil, as it is written, “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one who rules over their spirit than one who conquers a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)
Be patient. The non-profit that you are matched to might not have experience working with a consultant, and helping them share their needs and the most useful information to you might not always feel ‘efficient’ to you.
Who is rich? One who is happy with their portion, as it says (Psalms, 128:2), “If you eat of toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you”; “fortunate are you” in this world, “and good is to you” in the World to Come.
Be content. Sometimes the most important work is the least ‘sexy.’ Sticking with this opportunity will create short-term and long-term benefits for everyone involved.
1 “Partnering with Funders to Unleash the Power of Volunteers” | Leighty Foundation
2 Pirkei Avot 4:1 [AJWS translation]
Who is honored? One who honors the creations, as it says, “Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who scorn Me will be despised” (I Samuel 2:30)
Be respectful. If you extend respect, you will be respected, and that positive relationship will make for the best experience and the best work!
Learning about the work:
You have the opportunity to volunteer with organizations with a wide variety of missions. Those that we are bringing onto the platform focus on addressing poverty and its reverberations on local, national, and global scales. There is way more to say about these topics than we could fit into a few paragraphs, but we’ve collected some resources for you to check out to learn more about why these issue areas are so important.
As you read, watch, and listen, consider what surprises you, what do you want to know more about and how might what you are learning influence your approach to volunteering.
- PBS has compiled a cache of articles related to the role of race in history, science and society on their interactive webpage, Race: The Power of an Illusion
- As society shifts around us, nonprofits are deeply impacted by this ‘new normal.’ Read more about how and why nonprofits are shifting in order to stay successful and viable on the InsideCharityBlog, Catchafire’s blog, and Nonprofit Quarterly.
- OLAM has put together terminology to understand the basics of international development and global Jewish service.
- Vox Explained: Racial Wealth Gap talks about the history of the racial wealth gap in the US, and where it sits, today.
- Avodah’s: Speak Torah to Power Series. We recommend starting with “Justice in the City,” where author, academic, and activist, Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, Ph.D, explores what we owe the economically vulnerable and/or marginalized members of our urban communities. The full series can be found on Avodah’s website.
- Understanding Poverty in California (1:58) from the Public Policy Institute of California. This short video gives a brief introduction to what poverty looks like today in California, today. Though the examples are from California, they are similar to what happens around the US and in many wealthy countries.
- For a global perspective, take a look at the video introduction to the 2019 Multidimensional Poverty Index from the Human Development Report Office, which poses important questions for us to think about when defining poverty.
- 1619 Project Podcast from the New York Times Magazine “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
- NPR’s Codeswitch Podcast discusses race “from politics and pop culture to history, sports and everything in between,” on a local, national, and international level.
- “Jews, Justice, and Global Giving” podcast episode from OLAM’s Global Torah interviewing Ruth Messinger and Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, discussing how we prioritize our giving.
- Weekly Economics Podcast from the New Economics Foundation explores topics of economic justice and poverty.
As you sign up to volunteer through repairtheworld.catchafire.org/volunteer-now and find an organization to contribute your talents to, consider what it would look and feel like to embody a volunteer mindset.
In Jewish tradition, kavannah, or intention, comes from the same root as the word for “direction,” meaning that building up and constantly honing our intentions will help us stay on the path towards a more just world.
To get you started, find inspiration for intention setting and reflection, here are a few resources that we love to return to:
- Evolve from Reconstructing Judaism hosts an ever-updating collection of resources on Jewish attitudes and approaches on justice.
- The Reform Movement has collected articles and resources on a wide variety of social justice topics and how they connect to Judaism.
- Collected online learning from Pardes on social justice
We can’t wait to hear about your experience! Email us at [email protected] with questions, thoughts and insight on your experience.