If you’ve ever wondered how much of an impact you can really have with your volunteer service, consider how vital those roles are to NGOs. “NGO” is short for “non-governmental organization,” and the label applies to any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group.
These are organizations specifically designed to work on helping people, animals, and the planet as a whole. They support causes that are often struggling.
Because these organizations are not-for-profit, they often have lower budgets than the types of companies that actually make money. That’s where volunteer service come in, providing the labor and support they so often need.
Without the contributions of volunteers, many NGOs would not exist. Let’s take a look at how volunteer service helps support NGOs that, in turn, help to make the world a better place.
Keeping Costs Down
The people behind NGOs work hard to ensure that as much of their time and resources as possible will go to support the cause at hand.
Most NGOs employ full-time, paid staff in order to accomplish their big goals, but it’s the work of volunteers that allows them to dedicate even more of what they raise to the issue they’re trying to solve.
Volunteers cut costs for NGOs by generously donating their time to the organization and getting work done without depleting budgets. Instead of payment, volunteers are gaining valuable life experience, knowledge in fields of interest, and the satisfaction of doing work that really makes a difference.
Habitat for Humanity is a well-known NGO that builds houses for those in need, providing shelter to some of the 2 billion homeless people worldwide.
Volunteers work on the ground with Habitat for Humanity, constructing houses in neighborhoods around the world. Through their work with Habitat for Humanity, volunteers gain experience in construction, team work, problem solving, and so much more.
You can search for a local Habitat for Humanity chapter in your area, and join fellow volunteers in building homes for your neighbors in need.
Without volunteers, the costs of running an NGO would be significantly greater, and progress significantly slower. Volunteers make NGOs more effective in getting the work done, and everyone gains something in the process.
Helping to Spread the Word
Words can be just as powerful as work when it comes to fighting for the people and causes that need our help.
OxFam’s Spread the Word page demonstrates how easy it is to help NGOs distribute their message. OxFam is an international NGO that seeks to eliminate poverty around the globe by fighting for basic human rights.
Their “Spread the Word” page allows anyone to instantly become an ally and a volunteer of this cause, by starting conversations about specific issues through social media. One click will allow you to post to Facebook or Twitter about OxFam’s work, which will hopefully inspire your networks to discuss the issues of poverty, and maybe even volunteer their time as well.
Volunteers don’t have to travel across the globe to help NGOs spread the word about their cause. Though many of them, do. When volunteers have positive experiences with their volunteer work, they often become enthusiastic ambassadors for the NGO they’ve worked with.
We’ve had many Discover Corps volunteers kindly share their stories with us, so that we can help other people understand the value of the work they do. Kristin McGarrey recently shared her experience with our Sea Turtle Initiative in Costa Rica, and her story will have you dreaming up your own Costa Rican trip!
By sharing first hand experiences, volunteers help NGOs spread their message and attract more volunteers to help with their cause.
Offering Innovative Ideas
Volunteers are more than merely the muscle behind NGOs. They also have the opportunity to contribute to the brain of the organization, by offering their own insight and ideas to help solve problems and produce results.
Some of them even go on to do their own work, inspired by their experiences with an NGO.
Charlene Espinoza was doing Peace Corp volunteer service in Liberia, where she taught English at the local school. But as she assimilated into the position and the local community, she noticed that many of the girls were not going to school.
Rather than continue on with business as usual, Charlene took the initiative to do something about the challenges that girls were facing in getting an education. She came up with the idea to produce patchwork bags with the local girls, providing them with both a skill and an income that could help them get to school, forming her own non-profit called Bosh Bosh.
Without the initiative and the ingenuity of Charlene, this problem may not have been addressed. She was able to use the Peace Corps as a platform to do something more.
Whether a volunteer is helping to problem solve within an organization or branching out to organize their own movement, their ideas help strengthen and spread the work of NGOs around the globe.
Volunteering is an incredibly valuable use of time, both for the organization and the volunteer. NGOs receive support that they need to be effective, and volunteers receive life experience, travel opportunities, and the joy of connecting with different cultures and making a difference.
Of course, people need to make money in order to pay their bills and keep a roof over their head. But it doesn’t take a huge amount of unpaid volunteer service to make a difference for NGOs who need help. By donating just a small percentage of our time and energy to helping causes that are important to us, we can all contribute to changing the world for the better. –Britany Robinson
BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, The Daily Dot and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes.