Volunteering: Why It’s Better to Give Your Skills than Just Time

So you’ve decided you want to volunteer.


The next step is, of course, to decide how you want to volunteer.

Volunteering, and the feeling of helping to create and run a program that makes the world a better place, is one of the most richly rewarding experiences out there. But while selflessly offering your time is a generous and thoughtful act, it can also be highly inefficient – and sometimes counterproductive – if that time is not used in an intelligent way.

To maximise the impact of your volunteering efforts, it’s important to focus on giving skills, and not just time. You need to bring your individual talents, knowledge, and experience to the table.

This is why:

You Can Fill in Skill Gaps

The vast majority of volunteering projects have no shortage of manpower. Unskilled labour – like basic construction, fundraising, and domestic duties – can and should be completed by anyone on the team, including locals with no specific technical knowledge. That’s not to say these jobs are unimportant: quite the opposite, in fact! But identifying and filling gaps with your particular skillset allows more people as a whole to participate, at the same time creating a more well-rounded team that can rise to any challenge.

You Can Pass on Knowledge

The social impact landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade or so, especially in developing countries. In the past, many aid groups were content to manage and complete projects with their own internal volunteer groups, largely from overseas. Now, the focus has shifted to empowering the local communities themselves to become invested in the project, and continue to manage it long after the volunteers are gone.

This is why bringing your specific skills to a project is so important: it gives you the opportunity to pass them on further to a new, eager generation of learners who will use them to continue helping themselves and their community.

It Makes The Volunteer Ecosystem More Sustainable

Effectively using your skillset and passing on your expertise doesn’t just contribute to the long-term success of individual projects, but to the volunteering ecosystem as a whole. Sadly, most volunteering projects are run with only limited resources available, so being efficient with what they do have – i.e., you and your skills – is a must if they want to continue to operate and fund future projects as well.

You Can Give More Effectively

Who would you want to build your house: a software engineer or a bricklayer? And who would you rather do your taxes for you: an accountant or a doctor? The simple and obvious truth is that people are better and faster at the work they’re trained to do. If you are passionate about giving the most you can back to the world, and seeing success for your volunteer projects, it makes sense to offer skills that will be as effective as possible.

You Can Bring More People On Board To Help

Most people’s skillsets will be closely linked to their choice of career and job, and many of your work colleagues will no doubt share very similar skills and passions with you. This means that if you’re volunteering your skills and come across a particularly tricky problem, you won’t have to go far to find friends who can help solve it!

At the same time, bringing in colleagues and friends to help volunteer is much easier when you’re appealing to their specific skillset. The world will always need more volunteers, but many of us hesitate at giving up our time for something we’re not passionate about. On the other hand, if you give them a problem that only they can solve, they’ll be more engaged, more inspired, and much more willing to help.

More Satisfaction, Less Burnout

 It can be fun, of course, to do something that you’ve never tried before. But as we’ve just shown, not using your existing skills simply won’t have as much of an impact on your volunteering project - and the world!

If you don’t have the impact you thought you were going to have, this can lead to frustration and disappointment, and ultimately volunteer burnout. On the other hand, if you’re using your skills to the fullest and helping others achieve higher goals, and make much better progress than they would without you, you’ll get a feeling of intense satisfaction in return. And the more satisfied you are, the more you’ll want to keep on going and keep on giving!


Do you want to put your skills to good use and achieve real change in the world? Find a project that matches you perfectly in the Copalana Volunteer Marketplace.

Raphael Shinners
About the author
Raphael Shinners
Want your volunteering to make a real impact? Make sure you offer your skills, and not just time. Here's why!

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