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How #Volunteering Can Help You Stand Out from the Crowd

1 Jul
If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
~ Booker T. Washington

This is a contribution by How2Become

When you’re desperately looking for that next job, working for free may not seem like the next best thing at all. But, volunteering can seriously help you to stand out from other applicants and can help you to get that next interview.

Show that you are a proactive person

Volunteering for three months looks a lot better on a resume than a long gap between jobs. It shows that you have kept your brain active, that you have been determined to improve the lives of others and that you were not content to sit at home and order a pizza.

It’s not all about money

It shows a great level of dedication and loyalty to stick at a volunteering post for a few months without being paid. Volunteering demonstrates that there is more to your motivation than just money. Employers will like this as they will see you as a person who wants to do their job well for the sake of fulfilling your own personal goals rather than it being all about the money. Somebody who really wants a job for reasons other than financial ones will be much more appealing to employers.

Learn key skills

Many volunteering posts require many of the same skills as a paid professional job. For example, fundraising for a charity requires good sales and negotiation skills in order to get people to donate. Similarly, working with children with learning difficulties or teaching English as a foreign language require excellent communication skills.

Network with influential people

Many larger charities have paid jobs higher up. Whilst volunteering you may get to meet people who have the power to hire and fire employees in these positions. After a few months of volunteering for a larger charitable organisation you may even be offered a permanent paid position. You will be amazed at the variety of different people who volunteer. Even if they themselves are between jobs or out of work, they may have friends and relatives in the industries in which you wish to apply for jobs. It never hurts to get talking to people with contacts.

Gain Work Experience

There are a huge number of volunteering opportunities out there. You are bound to find something relevant to the career you want to pursue. If you want to go into marketing then why not help a charity to design posters for free? If you’re looking at events management then ask if you can help to organise a charity dinner or a fundraising event. You can tailor the type of volunteering you do to perfectly demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to enter your desired field. These kinds of opportunities would not be given to you in a paid job until you climbed quite high up the ladder in a larger corporation, so volunteering can give the perfect platform to prove you have what it takes.

Get further, faster

Since volunteers don’t get paid, there are few people who can afford to stick at it for a considerable length of time. If you manage to stay for a few months, you may see yourself become one of the more senior and experienced volunteers. You may even get your own team to lead; an opportunity which you wouldn’t be given for years in the corporate world. Relish the opportunities and make the most of them. Managerial experience will look amazing on your resume and will show that other people have had faith in you to perform to a very high standard in the past.

Richard McMunn is a writer for  How2Become, a leading career and recruitment specialist for public sector careers. For the last 8 years How2become has helped numerous people prepare for and pass tough recruitment processes and assessment centres in order to secure their dream job. 

57 Easy, Free Ways You Can Make Someone’s Day

9 Jun

This article originally appears in The Huffington Post.

57 Simple Ways to Make Someone’s Day

Amy Neumann

Social Good and Technology Devotee; Director SEO/SEM/SMO at

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and start with the person nearest you.” -Mother Teresa

Recently, I ran across something that got me thinking again about the beauty of a simple kindness. And about the astonishing power and positive impact even the smallest kind word or deed can have on someone’s day — or life.

The story has been repeated countless different ways for ages, and here is one version.


Photo courtesy of Amy Neumann

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement. She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!” The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!” The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.– adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley

Are you looking for ways to make that difference to one person today? Or for a few simple ways to spread kindness anytime?

Here are 57 ideas to get you started:

1. Smile at a stranger
2. Put change in an expired parking meter
3. Send someone a hand-written card
4. Hold a door open for someone
5. Volunteer virtually for a few minutes or hours:
6. Give a friendly wave to a neighbor
7. Do a simple, free, quick kindness for a charity — eight examples here
8. Tell a friend you appreciate them
9. Plant a tree


Spend time in nature yourself, and maybe later, plant a tree to share with others.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir. Photo courtesy of Amy Neumann
10. Walk instead of driving and absorb the wonders around you
11. Teach a group in your community about something unique you do or enjoy
12. Collect books to give to a school or shelter
13. Drop off dinner or groceries to an elderly friend who can’t get out much
14. Start an affinity group to share a hobby with others —
15. Mentor someone, a child or an adult
16. Create a blog for someone who loves writing but isn’t technical
17. Help someone get set up with social media
18. Call your family just to say hi and find out what they’re doing
19. Invite a friend you haven’t seen in a while to the movies or coffee or…
20. Find a fun project to volunteer for:
21. Sign up for an unusual class at a community college and see who you meet
22. Read a book on something new to gain new perspective
23. Make a Top 10 (or 25 or 100) List of things you’re thankful for and share it
24. Give a plant to someone
25. Ask someone for a recipe of theirs that you love
26. Ask a wise person for insight
27. Talk to elderly people and listen to their stories to learn about life
28. Give a stranger a sincere compliment
29. Say “Thank You” often
30. Do pro-bono work for a favorite cause:
31. Say “I Love You” often
32. Organize photos in a virtual or paper album for a host/ess as a thank you
33. Ask someone how their day was, and listen attentively
34. Invite someone you admire to lunch to hear their ideas and insights
35. Speak on a topic you know to a community group who wants to learn
36. Buy a charitable magazine subscription and send it to a nursing home
37. See the positives in a tough situation
38. Sell some cool stuff online and give the proceeds to charity:
39. Read these 25 amazing social good blogs for inspiration
40. Share inspiring quotes and stories online
41. Donate your airline miles

“Wherever these is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.”

42. Pick up an errant piece of trash and throw it away, just because
43. Offer to babysit for a single Mom or Dad
44. Run an errand for a busy friend
45. Donate event tickets to local charity organization
46. Recycle anything, correctly
47. Give a gift of housekeeping service to a new parent
48. Set aside a bit more than last year for charity and add a new one to your list
49. Tell someone you see regularly at a business how they make your day
50. Be appreciative and gracious for compliments
51. Be patient under pressure and use compassion as a guide for disagreements
52. Smile just because
53. Dance in your car even (especially!) with people watching
54. Learn how to tell a few great clean jokes
55. Create a blog post about a few people you admire and why
56. Share something without being asked
57. Compliment a job well done, or a kindness

Amy Neumann is a passionate fan of social good, and is dedicated to leveraging technology to change the world. Check out her Charity Ideas Blog and follow her on Twitter @CharityIdeas.

Follow Amy Neumann on Twitter:

Volunteers Have Big Hearts, But Not #TinyCars – @VolunteerSpot

8 Mar

As Fuel Prices Soar, Tiny Rate For Volunteer Mileage Still Tiny – from

When VolunteerSpot started our Tiny Cars campaign a little over a month ago to raise awareness of the problem of the tiny volunteer mileage rate (just 14 cents a mile allowed for reimbursements or tax deductions), gas was around $3.39 a gallon – far higher than the $1.30 when the volunteer mileage rate was set in 1997.

Now, just five weeks later, gas is costing an average $3.75 per gallon and is projected to travel well past $4 by May or earlier.

Sadly, there seems to be a threshold for how much of this volunteers can take. In the last couple weeks, news outlets across the country have been highlighting problems for nonprofits unable to staff up their volunteer ranks due to the high cost of driving. Some are losing existing volunteers who, according to news reports, are being forced to choose between food for themselves and gas for their volunteer commitments.

Congress controls this tiny rate – not the IRS – and only they can take the necessary steps to fix it. The best current legislation in the House only addresses the issue of reimbursement not individual tax deduction – but it does make the rate much better.

Wouldn’t it be great if representatives in Congress seized this opportunity to provide real relief for millions of volunteers (who vote) and join in a painless display of bipartisan cooperation by fixing the Volunteer mileage rate?

Action Suggestion:

Continue to tweet, post, blog and spread the word about TinyCars using hashtag #TinyCars.

A Path from Pain to Positivity: by @CharityIdeas for Huffington Post

13 Sep

This article originally appears in the Huffington Post:

Amy Neumann

Writer, speaker and social media consultant for nonprofits and businesses

A Path from Pain to Positivity

Posted: 9/12/11 07:48 PM ET in the Huffington Post

Sometimes a path forms where you tread most without you even realizing it. Sometimes a new path is simply presented to you. And sometimes, you are thrust onto a path by unanticipated events that in retrospect are a blessing. The last scenario happened to me.

Several years ago, I survived a brutal period of domestic violence with increasing levels of mental and physical abuse, including almost dying in one incident where choking and a knife were involved. The incomprehensible, surreal effect that this has on anyone, especially on anyone who has no prior knowledge of the cycle of domestic violence (as is common), is hard to put into words. The terror, the constant anxiety, the self-doubt and threats from the abuser about telling someone — unless you’ve experienced it, which hopefully you have not and will not, it’s challenging to acutely understand it.

Having felt this first-hand, I decided to try to help a population of hurting people who did acutely know this horrific feeling: moms with kids. Statistics vary, but on average, studies suggest that on the low end, just over a quarter (28 percent) of homeless moms are victims of domestic violence. In Southern California, where I lived, it’s closer to 50 percent. And these are likely underreported figures. At some point, to save your own life and/or your children’s lives, the only choices become: he’s out, or you’re out. And so moms and kids become homeless.

I had already been working with Union Rescue Mission for several years after being stunned upon learning of the number of homeless people in L.A. when I moved there from Ohio. Seeing the women and kids there on Skid Row broke my heart, even though the kids smiled and laughed and played like kids do, and the moms were so appreciative of the safety and shelter and basics of living.

Hoping to help more long-term, I asked to design and teach a series of classes at URM about finding jobs, which went extremely well. One of the women (whom we’ll call Jane) who had been in the classes for a couple months twice a week approached me one day after class. The stories Jane shared then about her history literally brought tears to my eyes.

And then, Jane dramatically altered my life for the better.

“Thank you for showing me last week how to use Word and Excel,” she said. “I just wanted to tell you I got a job in Vegas and am moving there next week.”

Jane was smart and only needed confidence and a little information. But she gave me something monumental. To have contributed even a little to one woman being freed from the situation she was currently in made my heart sing.

From then on, I became increasing passionate about social good in many ways, including donating a car and my diamond wedding rings to Karz 4 Kids and Hope Gardens, respectively. (Hope Gardens is Union Rescue Mission’s transitional housing for moms and kids away from Skid Row, which opened a while after Jane moved away; I was a member of their Capital Campaign for several years and am a big fan.) While donating financially is certainly not the only way to help organizations, it felt extremely cathartic to me personally. Spreading awareness and hope via social media is another way that feels great, and anyone can do it anytime. Twitter has been a huge source of ongoing inspiration for me and millions of others.

This piece of this tale has written a happy ending for itself. What caused immeasurable pain led to equally immeasurable growth, empathy and gratitude for learning and being able to help others.

When life hands you a giant bushel of lemons, it makes plenty of lemonade to share along your path.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or Not sure? This quiz can help: “Is this abuse?”

Social good plus technology!

10 Sep


Amy Neumann


Cleveland, OH via Los Angeles


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