(The following 3 paragraphs are copied from wikiepedia.com-)
In general terms, volunteering is the practice of people working on behalf of others or a particular cause without payment for their time and services. Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve human quality of life, but people also volunteer for their own skill development, to meet others, to make contacts for possible employment, to have fun, and a variety of other reasons that could be considered self-serving.
Volunteering takes many forms and is performed by a wide range of people. Many volunteers are specifically trained in the areas they work in, such as medicine, education, or emergency rescue. Other volunteers serve on an as-needed basis, such as in response to a natural disaster or for a beach-cleanup.
In a military context, a volunteer army is an army whose soldiers chose to enter service, as opposed to having been conscripted. Such volunteers do not work for free and are given regular pay. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volunteering)
Areas where people may volunteer: animal welfare, children's issues, community development, environmental protection, politics, healthcare, disasters, and/or overcoming poverty (http://volunteerguide.org/. This is not an extensive list, but for the purpose of discussion, these areas are the kind of areas where those who aren’t employed or are employed part-time can invest their time. How does one take volunteering and turn it into a potential income benefit? Let’s take animal welfare for example:
Hundreds of animals are abused, or are born with deformities, yet still need someone to care for them. The opportunity to help these helpless creatures, allows a volunteer to build a skill-set that develops on several levels. For example: medical, community, and an advocate. If you enjoy working with animals in this context, check with those who make decisions about any type of certifications you may need. Your certification becomes resume material for applying for your next income-based position,
Let’s look at children's issues. Children with special needs often need someone to either read to them, listen to them read, or do their homework, assist them in getting around the house, or going to their medical appointments. What you could possibly gain: Driving skills, people skills, learning about how to relate to children with special needs, their medications, and their various personalities. Research non-profit groups that provide services for children with special needs and determine what skills sets you either have or are willing to gain certification in that will be a help not only to Children with Special Needs, but in a future career, possibly, working with Children with Special Needs.
Last, but not least, let’s look at community development. From neighborhood watch, to neighborhood associations, many opportunities exist for a volunteer to meet neighbors in various positions throughout the community. But meeting should them not be the obvious intent. People can tell when you are only looking for a personal benefit, and they try to put distance between you and them, and don’t get involved with truly important projects that could otherwise help you in the future. As a volunteer in Community Development, you can assist in housing issues, providing need information on crime prevention, blight reduction, and an overall safe neighborhood. If you are good, or get good at what you do in your community, or any of the above areas, someone will notice you and will invite you to be a part of more activities, which can lead to other positive interactions.
The timeline for converting your acquired skills through volunteering could be anywhere from a year to five years. This is not a guarantee about whether you will be placed, or find new employment, but the message here is that you will learn new things to do, build great relationships, and of course, help someone in need. You may also develop a new career that not only becomes income-based, but a long-term investment as a volunteer.
One more thing is that, you more than likely have a tremendous number of skill sets that you have acquired on a number of jobs. There are non-profit organizations looking for volunteers who can bring those skill sets to the table. You know are invaluable to your employer, but how much more valuable would you be if you were offering your skills and knowledge on a volunteer basis? Think about. You would be a god! Just kidding. But think about it.
Yes, it may appear to be self-serving that you may volunteer to coach a little league baseball game, or help coordinate a neighborhood watch, but you can call it insurance as well. If you find that you may need a reference, or if you find that someone is a big decision maker, your work as a volunteer will standout, providing of course, you made a difference. After all, isn’t that why you really volunteer-to make a difference?
Information deemed to be from reliable sources, but not guaranteed. Not to be considered legal or consultative advice, you are encouraged to consult with your respective professional(s) for further information.