Grow Your Skills by Giving Them Away

I’m always amazed at the different ways that skills-based volunteering can bring valuable resources to great causes.

This week I learned about Angel Flights Northeast. A friend and I participated in the “Ride for Angels” last Sunday, a charity bike ride to raise funds for the organization.

We were happy to do something that we enjoy (cycling) and to give money to a great cause.

But what’s really cool about this charity is how it works. Pilots volunteer their time and talent to fly patients from far or rural areas to the medical resources they need. The organization coordinates this among pilots, aircraft owners, and families who don’t have the financial resources to reach long-distance care.

Like many charities, it’s a festival of generosity. Lots of people do lots of things to make the whole thing work.

Let’s focus on the pilots for a minute.

The pilots have a valuable skill that would be expensive to pay for if the charity just raised funds for this cause. It’s better if the pilots donate their skills.

This model is good for the pilots too. They get to experience doing something they are trained and experienced in, but in a different way.

Which is always eye opening.

If you are a chef in a restaurant, but then you cook for a private dinner in someone’s home, that’s a totally different experience. Your same skills are applied in a totally different environment. It’s likely that you would learn something new and useful. Something you can take back to the restaurant and use to hone your craft further or to expand your thinking or approach in some way.

I’ve been fortunate to have this experience through executive coaching. There’s a great Boston area charity called Common Impact that connects experienced executives with nonprofits in need.

When I volunteered to help a great nonprofit develop a new website, it was easy for me and impactful for them. I helped to develop a strategy, write a request for proposal, conduct vendor evaluations, to select and implement a solution.

All of this was easy for me. And valuable to them.

I was using well-honed skills and much experience, so I barely broke a sweat. Meanwhile, the nonprofit gained expertise they didn’t have in-house from a resource they could trust and rely upon.

That’s good for the nonprofit.

It was also great for me.

Because I got to apply my skills in a totally new and different environment. I got to work with a great team. I met new people and learned how a totally different business worked.

My skills were easily applied, but my experience was broadened in important ways. That’s an important and valuable take-away.

What skills do you have that you might be able to donate to a worthy cause?

You can give them away. And you will gain valuable experience, grow your professional network (probably well beyond your usual circles), and make an impact.

Go for it!