Kigali, Rwanda, Africa! Volunteering – A Waste of Time or an Amazing Opportunity?

Originally Published on August 23, 2016 on LinkedIn

Wow… I never thought I would go to Rwanda as a volunteer or for any other reason. But I just returned from Kigali and experienced my first mission trip in Africa. I spent eleven days there as a volunteer and my “mission” was to teach on leadership and discipleship topics at a pastors conference and then at a women’s conference. I also shared my personal testimony with the people in Rwanda. What an amazing opportunity this was and an unforgettable experience. If you want to read more about that specific experience, I invite you to visit my personal blog at www.marciamalzahn.wordpress.com. For now, I simply want to encourage you to volunteer somewhere. Help someone. Use your talents to help others. You will be blessed in more ways than you know. Trust me. It won’t be a waste of time. It will be an amazing opportunity!

Here is the article that was just published in the www.LatinoAmericanToday.com newspaper that I would like to share with you through LinkedIn as well:

Do you want to join our Board? That’s a question you don’t hear every day but it happens often when people see you have a heart to help others—especially in the nonprofit world. Twenty three years ago I joined the first nonprofit Board as a volunteer. My first position was Education & Training Chair for Financial Women International (FWI), a nonprofit association with the mission to empower women in the financial services industry. A few months later, the Treasurer resigned due to family health issues and I was asked to step up into that role even though I had just joined the Board. I gladly accepted because I love working with numbers and I saw it as a great opportunity to get to know the organization better. I served in FWI at one position or another for the next sixteen years. I was elected President of the local chapter twice and served even at the National Board level as a Director.

During my time volunteering with FWI, I made lifelong friends and business connections that are still alive today. I also received formal training on the Roberts Rules of Order, how to conduct effective Board meetings, and how to lead a nonprofit association made out of only volunteers. I learned to work in teams, hired speakers for our programs, and wrote monthly newsletter articles. In short, I learned the “soft skills” leaders need in order to be successful. Unfortunately, FWI is no longer in existence because organizations stopped supporting their members across the country starting in the ‘80’s through early 2000’s until we had to close it down in 2009, after existing and serving members for 88 years.

While I was the President of the Downtown Exchange Group leading 133 members, I completed the Management Certification Program they offered by reading several books and attending programs on the topics of management, leadership, negotiation skills, mentoring relationships, and many other important subjects. At the end of my term, my manager at the bank (where I was working at the time) came to my office and said, “Marci, let’s talk management.” She said that because of my willingness to volunteer to lead the association and because I had obtained the Management Certification through FWI’s Program, she felt I was ready to lead the bank’s branch, downtown Minneapolis. I was surprised to be asked since I had never supervised anyone up to that point (and I still didn’t have my college degree) but was very grateful for the new opportunity.

During my time at that bank I also volunteered to participate in the annual Juvenile Diabetes Foundation fund raising effort. My strategy was to ask all the senior executives and owners to support me so I could raise the most amount of money and win the contest. I won. The reward was dinner with the owners of the bank. Because of my willingness to volunteer, I was now being recognized and became more visible in the organization.

Since I started volunteering on Boards I have made my individual contribution of “the four T’s”: time, talent, treasure and touch (connections). Each nonprofit organization I’ve worked with has made a contribution back into my life. We always think that we’re the ones helping them but we receive so much more in return.

There are many ways you can volunteer if you don’t like to serve on a Board. You can volunteer to work directly with the organization’s clients or work behind the scenes to help with the administration or in the warehouse/back room organizing donated items. There are countless ways you can get involved just as there are countless nonprofit organizations that can use your help and talents. The best way to decide where to help is by asking yourself the question: Who do I want to help? Then look for an organization that helps those people and get involved if their beliefs align with yours. Here are some examples of organizations that you could get involved that I’ve had great experience working with:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters: Become a Big and mentor a child. Participate in their programs so Bigs and Littles can have fun together. www.bigstwincities.org
  • Way to Grow: Volunteer to work with a minority, low income family so their children are ready for Kindergarten. www.waytogrow.org
  • Jeremiah Program: Go with your friends or co-workers and cook a meal for the single mothers and their children. www.jeremiahprogram.org
  • Matter: Volunteer to work in the warehouse categorizing donated items. www.mattermore.org
  • Minnesota Center for Book Arts: Volunteer at one of their events. www.mnbookarts.org
  • Feed My Starving Children: Go with friends or co-workers and volunteer to pack meals. www.fmsc.org
  • Opportunity International: Donate so they can continue to provide micro loans to the poor around the world. www.opportunity.org
  • Shine Ministries: Donate or volunteer so they can bring hope to the world. www.shineintheworld.org
  • Pulse Movement: Donate or volunteer so they can bring hope to the youth. www.pulsemovement.org

By serving on nonprofit Boards I learned how to serve on for-profit organizations’ Board of Directors too. The rewards I have received by serving are many and each has significantly enriched my life. I have never considered it a waste of time. To the contrary, I consider my time invested an amazing opportunity to grow, to learn, and to meet beautiful people across the country (and the world). I now serve on four boards, three of which are nonprofits. I invite you to check out my business website and visit the Community Involvement page so you can get ideas of various nonprofits we support, learn about their individual missions, and start using your talents to serve others. The time to volunteer is NOW. People need your help!