• Volunteering

Balancing Volunteering with Work and School: Tips and Strategies

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: March 23, 2023

Volunteering is a great way to make a positive impact on society while also enhancing personal and professional growth. However, finding time to volunteer can be challenging when you have other commitments. So, how can you balance volunteering with work or school?

Assess your availability and interests

The first step in balancing volunteering with other commitments is to assess your availability and interests. Determine how much time you can commit to volunteering without compromising other commitments. Also, identify causes or organisations that align with your interests and values. This will make it easier for you to find volunteering opportunities that you are passionate about and that fit your schedule.

Prioritise your commitments

Once you have identified your availability and interests, the next step is to prioritise your commitments. Evaluate your work or school schedule and identify non-negotiable time slots. Allocate time for volunteering that does not interfere with these commitments. For example, you can volunteer on weekends or during lunch breaks.

Look for flexible volunteering opportunities

One way to balance volunteering with work or school is to look for flexible volunteering opportunities. Research volunteer opportunities that offer flexible schedules or remote options. Consider micro-volunteering or one-time events that require less time commitment. GVI offers programs that range from one week to six months in various locations around the world, allowing volunteers to choose a program that fits their availability. GVI also offers remote/virtual volunteering options for those who are unable to travel but still want to make an impact. Some of the programs offered by GVI include wildlife conservation, community development, and marine conservation, among others. GVI provides training and support to ensure volunteers have a meaningful and safe experience.

Communicate with your employer or academic institution

When it comes to balancing volunteering with work or school, communication is key. It’s important to be transparent with your employer or academic institution about your interest in volunteering and how it can fit with your work or school schedule.

But it’s not just about asking for permission to volunteer. Volunteering can actually benefit your career or studies in many ways. For instance, volunteering can provide opportunities for skill development, networking, and personal growth, which can all translate into professional or academic success.

Here are some ways to communicate the benefits of volunteering with your employer or academic institution:

Emphasise the skills you can develop through volunteering

Volunteering can help you develop a range of skills that are highly valued by employers and academic institutions. For example, volunteering can help you improve your communication, teamwork, and leadership skills. These are all skills that can be transferable to your work or academic life.

When communicating with your employer or academic institution, highlight the specific skills you can develop through volunteering and how they can benefit your work or academic performance.

Discuss how volunteering can enhance your professional or academic network

Volunteering can provide you with opportunities to meet and network with people from different backgrounds and industries. This can be valuable for your professional or academic growth, as it can help you expand your network and gain new perspectives on your field.

When discussing volunteering with your employer or academic institution, mention how volunteering can help you build relationships and expand your network. This can help you show how volunteering can benefit your career or studies in the long run.

Share how volunteering can contribute to your personal growth

Volunteering can also be a valuable way to develop your personal character and values. For instance, volunteering can help you build empathy, compassion, and a sense of community. These are all traits that can benefit you in your personal and professional life.

When communicating with your employer or academic institution, emphasise how volunteering can help you grow as a person, and how this personal growth can translate into better performance at work or in your studies.

Set realistic goals and boundaries

Setting realistic goals and boundaries is important when balancing volunteering with work or school. Set specific goals and objectives for your volunteering. Avoid over-committing and setting unrealistic expectations. Establish boundaries and communicate them with the organisation or team you are volunteering with. For example, if you cannot volunteer on a particular day or time, communicate that with the organisation in advance.

Practice time management and self-care

Balancing volunteering with work or school requires good time management skills. Use time management techniques, such as to-do lists and prioritisation, to balance your commitments. Take care of your physical and mental health by getting enough rest and exercise. Volunteer work can be demanding, and taking care of yourself is essential to ensure that you can give your best effort.

In conclusion, balancing volunteering with work or school is possible with careful planning and communication. Assessing your availability and interests, prioritising your commitments, looking for flexible volunteering opportunities, communicating with your employer or academic institution, setting realistic goals and boundaries, and practising time management and self-care are all essential strategies for achieving this balance. 

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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