Look Local: Volunteering actually is all around

A couple of days ago, we wrote a blog post about voluntinder proposing the development of an app to find volunteering opportunities in your local community.

Sadly, we haven’t yet found someone to make the app happen for us (though Claire’s app developer cousin jokingly said he’d make one, and we’re seriously considering making him follow through). Getting a whole app finished in less than two days may have been a bit optimistic so we’ve been thinking about how to spread the word on local volunteering opportunities in other ways.

The FedUni student leadership website already has a fairly impressive list of volunteer opportunities around the Ballarat area and will soon have a similar list for Gippsland (it’s being put together as we speak), but we know that a lot of students travel long distances to campus so these may not be useful for everybody. For that reason we’ve started to put together a Pinterest account with links to opportunities all around the state and even internationally.

Apart from our resources, here are some other places that you can find volunteering opportunities in your local area:

It’s worth remembering that volunteering is certainly not limited to delivering meals on wheels or helping out at the local scout group (though if you’re interested in doing either of those things that’s fantastic!). Why not help out with a local sports group or use your crafty skills to make quilts or knit trauma teddies for kids in foster care? The possibilities are (almost) endless!

So happy volunteering, and good luck with finding that perfect opportunity!

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Online volunteering: an effective way to help in a digital age?

With the rise of social media and an increasingly connected world, we are also seeing the rise of online activism. Being able to stay curled up at home when it’s cold and miserable and still be doing something to help others is an incredibly attractive prospect. But is it really helpful?

There are numerous different ways to volunteer online, ranging from signing a petition for a cause through websites such as Avaaz, Change.org or GetUp! to volunteering writing or IT skills to a particular cause. It’s hard to say how much impact your signature will have on a petition, but nobody can deny that they can create change – Avaaz have successfully used their online campaigns to lobby governments and big business on 251,804,704 actions since 2007.

Another sort of online activism that receives a huge amount of attention is via Facebook. As easy as it is to ‘like’ a cause you are interested in on Facebook, studies have shown that engagement from this sort of social media is fleeting and does not lead to any sort of meaningful impact. At best, it is spreading awareness of a cause without a follow-on effect. Though that’s not a bad thing in itself, either. You liking a post by Amnesty may introduce one of your facebook friends to their great work. You never know!

There are real and long-lasting changes that can be made by online volunteers. You could volunteer through the UN Online Volunteering portal, which links volunteers up to thousands of different opportunities from hundreds of reputable not-for-profit and non-governmental organisations ranging from writing, translation and research through to training and project management.

Another cool online opportunity could be to help transcribe field notes, specimen details and dairy entries for exhibits in Australian Museums or help Operation War Diary to discover amazing stories about World War I by reading and tagging some of their 1.5 million diary pages!

Online volunteering cops a lot of flack for being a ‘soft’ option. But I think it’s safe to say that if done the right way it can and will make a difference to the global community.

What’s your passion? Take The Pledge…

…How can you make change with that?

Everyone has something they’re passionate about – music, sport, social justice, reading, socialising etc. So what if you could use your passions to make someone else’s life better?

You can.

Volunteering is worth more annually to the Australian economy than the entire mining industry (Over $200bn), but the word can often conjure up images that really don’t appeal to everyone. Picking up litter and serving tea to the elderly are incredibly important contributions to society, but there is a lot more to volunteering and community impact than that.

What about:

  • organising (or performing at) a charity music festival?
  • joining (or starting) a march or protest about something you feel is unfair?
  • designing a website for a local Not-For-Profit organisation?

Or:

  • teaching a friend to cook or change a tyre?
  • Sharing a community campaign through social media?
  • Writing to say thank you to someone who has inspired you?

All these things make the world a better place and we want you to think about the ways in which you can have an impact on society during 2015. We’re asking all FedUni students and staff to pledge to do something new this year – to take action (big or small) that benefits others. If there is something you think needs to change, be the one to change it. If you care about something, use your passion to change the world because if we all expect someone else to do it, no-one will!

Want to Take The Pledge? Head to http://bit.ly/FedTakeThePledge.

If you’d like to find out more about how the Leadership program can help you to follow your passions, check out our webpage: www.federation.edu.au/student-senate or contact Luke: L.icely@federation.edu.au or visit http://bit.ly/FedTakeThePledge

Take The Pledge

Why Volunteer? Boosting Skills

For National Student Volunteer Week (NSVW) 2014, we’ll be publishing a series of posts answering that perennial question – why should I volunteer?

Today, we’re looking at the skills you can gain and develop through volunteering. I’m a big fan of skills-based volunteering – In my experience volunteers often come in two main ‘shapes’: Those who are passionate about a particular cause or sector, and those who have specific skills and want to use them for social good, but may not mind who they help. Obviously there are shades of grey between these two, and some people who are both, but let’s keep things simplistic for this one! I’m going to call the first type Mary, and the second type Cal.

Mates 24 hours logoMary loves helping young people – she benefited from the support of some amazing volunteers during her tough teen years, and wants to give back to the organisations that helped her, as well as using her experience to help others. She has been volunteering for ten years with a range of youth services including Headspace, MATES Mentoring and the Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY), and has taken on a number of different roles within those organisations – filling gaps where they needed extra help. Mary completed a Cert 4 in Youth Work whilst volunteering, and has found that not only have the things she has learnt in her course helped her to volunteer more effectively, but that the practical work she does through volunteering has benefited her learning hugely – placements are great, but there is no substitute for working in the field on a weekly basis. She finds that her experiences actually exceed some of the criteria for the Cert 4, and she is looking at developing her caseworking skills in the future – working with different agencies to meet clients’ overall needs more effectively.

finance1Cal is a finance guy – he worked in a bank in the year before Uni, and is now about to finish a Bachelors in Accounting and Finance. He is passionate about making money work for people, and just as passionate about helping other people to make great financial decisions. During his first year of Uni, Cal started applying for internships and work experience in the corporate financial sector, but repeatedly found himself up against hundreds of other candidates even for data entry positions. Realising that a) He only stood a slim chance of landing a role and b) Even if he did it would most likely be mundane work which didn’t utilise his skills effectively, he headed to the Uni Careers Service, who pointed him in the direction of the Volunteer Program. With their help, Cal found a local disability support organisation who were looking for someone 2 days a week to develop an ICT-based accounting system, to replace the mass of receipts and hand-written records they currently had. Cal found that what he had learnt in his first year enabled him to test, demonstrate and recommend different accounting packages to the board, who gave him the go ahead to train others across the organisation to use it. Not only did his resume look in better shape as a result, but he decided to spend the next summer working with another local organisation who, impressed by what they had heard about him, offered Cal the chance to join them as a volunteer financial adviser, meeting with the board on a weekly basis. When he leaves Uni, not only will Cal have an impressive array of high-level (for his age) experience on the resume, but he has pledged to do Pro Bono work for at least 4 days a month at a Not-For-Profit financial management organisation.

Media Cov SBV How can it work for youCal and Mary are not real people, of course, but they are based on real and realistic experiences of those who choose to volunteer – not only can you find a great volunteer role which uses your ‘day job’ skills and interests, but if you do a bit of research and talk to the right people, you can even find a role which enhances them.

For National Student Volunteer Week, we wanted students to have the chance to ‘upskill’ a little – We have run workshops on personal/social values and leadership and supporting asylum seekers/refugees in the community. We have also persuaded some of our awesome staff to volunteer their time to teach students new skills – knitting and playing the ukulele!

If you have an experience of a time when volunteering has boosted your skills in some way (could be for a job, or even a hobby), We’d love to hear about them.

If you’re a FedUni student looking for a volunteer role which truly uses your skills, or which will develop new ones, get in touch at L.icely@federation.edu.au.

– Luke

Why Volunteer? Building Networks

For National Student Volunteer Week (NSVW) 2014, we’ll be publishing a series of posts answering that perennial question – why should I volunteer?

Today’s blog is all about that intangible but essential activity – Networking. Typically seen as an exercise in corporate career-ladder climbing, networking is often treated with suspicion amongst those with more altruistic objectives but the value of building a network through, or for volunteering is huge.

Every state in Australia has a state-wide Volunteer ‘Hub’ – Volunteering Queensland/Victoria/Tasmania etc. bring together news, opportunities, research and promotional materials for volunteers and volunteer organisations, ensuring the word gets spread as far as possible. Queensland have even gone that step further in building a nationwide network through organising National Student Volunteer Week, which of course we are celebrating this week. Even on a more local level, most towns will have a peak body for volunteering – in Ballarat, United Way run the volunteer role search engine, as well as supporting local organisations with marketing their roles, and running the volunteer managers network (amongst many other things). Through these ‘Hubs’, you as an an individual can also benefit from this extended network – volunteering with one organisation opens doors to many other opportunities when organisations work together.
banner-volunteer-victoria

On a personal level, many of the people you meet whilst volunteering will be invaluable additions to your personal and professional networks. Many volunteer organisations tend to be fairly small-scale, and non-hierarchical – you may be working on a daily basis with senior managers in the organisation. Often, CEOs, CFOs etc of charities have a lot of previous experience in larger, corporate settings – not only can you learn form their expertise, but again, they can open doors to new opportunities, both within volunteering and thinking about your career. The people who work for volunteer organisations by their nature tend to be willing to help other people, and so in your personal life as well your volunteer network can help you get things done. Of course, networking is not all about taking, and so make sure that you give a little as well – if you’re volunteering with someone who may need a hand with something, some information or a key contact that you have – do it!

Vol Expo SMFor NSVW, we’re running a couple of events which can help volunteers build their networks. On Monday, we hosted our annual Volunteer Expo in Ballarat and Gippsland, as well as an online version. Over 40 organisations took part in the ‘physical’ Expos, and several more in the ‘Virtual’ one, representing a huge range of different sectors including sports, politics, welfare and engineering. Students were encouraged to visit at least 6 stalls and find out what they had to offer, so getting a broad representation of what is available. On Wednesday, we have a talk specifically for Visual Arts students about how they can use their artistic powers to help the community, and join local artist networks.

Have you got a personal story of how you improved your network through volunteering? Let us know!

– Luke

Why volunteer? Giving Back

For National Student Volunteer Week (NSVW) 2014, we’ll be publishing a series of posts answering that perennial question – why should I volunteer? Part of my job is to persuade students that volunteering is great, and so I need to be able to do more than just mumble something about helping other people.

dollarThat said, my first and most important reason for volunteering is to give back in some way – volunteering can’t by definition be a purely selfish act as it automatically makes life better for other people. Someone cleverer than me has worked out that volunteering is worth around $200bn annually to the Australian economy – that’s what our volunteers are worth in the wages we don’t pay them, the things we don’t need to do because of them (planting trees, reading to kids etc), the money they pay in transport, food, clothing etc when volunteering and the skills they learn which can be transferred to their paid work, amongst other things. For the record, that’s more than even the mining industry contributes. (Pro Bono, 2014).

FedUniIn 2013 FedUni (or University of Ballarat as it was then) students contributed over 3119 volunteer hours – a contribution worth over $75,000, which is pretty incredible – we’re aiming for over 4000 hours this year – who said students don’t contribute to society? Ours are amazing. (Volunteering Australia, 2012)

Pop Upsocial mediaThis NSVW, we’ll be doing a number of things to help students give back – we’re running 5 Pop-Up Op Shops during the week – students and staff have been donating clothes, accessories and bric-a-brac for the past month or so, and we’ll be selling it all off in exchange for gold coin donations. Not only will all money will be split between the Ballarat Soup Bus (www.soupbus.com.au), Uniting Care (www.unitingcareballarat.com.au) and the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (www.relieffund.org.au), but we’ll be preventing several kilograms of unwanted ‘stuff’ from ending up in landfill. Instead, it will be ‘recycled’ by someone else, and anything left at the end of the week will be donated to local Op Shops, so nothing is wasted.

We’re also holding a Campus Clean-up at Mt Helen on Friday afternoon – we’ll be clearing up litter, branches and anything else we come across all over campus and the surrounding walking track. Thanks to the International Student Committee and Dale, our Sustainability Officer for helping make this happen. Anyone interested in joining us just needs to meet at the Hub at 1pm – we’ll provide gloves and a cuppa, but wrap up warm!

In the next few days we’ll be looking at some other reasons to volunteer, and what we’re doing during the week to help it happen, so please keep checking back:
Building Networks
Boosting Skills
Broadening Horizons

– Luke

Sources:

http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2012/08/volunteers-worth-more-australia-mining#
www.volunteeringaustralia.org/wp-content/uploads/the-economic-value-of-volunteering-in-victoria.pdf

Micro-volunteering – Become a Volunteer Hero, 16.4 minutes at a time…

i_microvolunteer_whats_your_super_power_bumper_sticker-r950dd3a2604e47439c39d05247639991_v9wht_8byvr_324
(image via zazzle.co.uk)

At FedUni, as part of our Leadership and Volunteering Awards Program, each year we recognise students who are ‘Volunteer Heroes’ – those who contribute over 100 hours of volunteer work to their communities, and attend at least 3 Leadership Development workshops on campus. For many people, 100 hours seems an unachievable amount of time, especially when it has to be balanced with course requirements, paid work, family and ‘me’ time. Spread over the course of a whole year, however it works out at approximately 16.4 minutes per day, or just over quarter of an hour.

(image via action.sierraclub.org)
(image via action.sierraclub.org)

As one of my New Year’s resolutions, I’m taking on the challenge of giving 100 hours back this year, and although some of that will be taken up with projects/fundraising etc, (I’m completing the Oxfam Melbourne Trailwalker this year for example), I’m definitely going to need some activities I can fit into my lunch break. Volunteering doesn’t have to be a major commitment; here are some micro-volunteering ideas to get you started…

Online Micro-Volunteering: This is one of the major emerging volunteer trends of the past few years – several websites have popped up allowing you to ‘donate’ a small amount of time for the benefit of others. asku_logoIt could be task-based – translating a press release, proof-reading, raising awareness through your social media channels for example, or virtual – answering questions, clicking links etc, which convert to charitable donations. Here are some of the websites which allow you to volunteer at your desk, or even on your phone:

www.asku.com.au
www.raise5.com
www.helpfromhome.orgBlood

Small Acts of Kindness: ‘Do a good deed every day’ is a bit of a cliché, but it works – pick up some litter around your neighbourhood or workplace, donate some old clothing to an op-shop or donate some blood! www.volunteerguide.org/minutes has some great ideas on how to make a difference in a short amount of time.

Help a mateHelp a Mate: You might not think of it as volunteering, but helping out someone in need is important, whether you know them or not! Use your specialist skills – if you know about computers, car maintenance, or cookery, why not use it to help out a friend? Alternatively, you could offer to take their children out for the afternoon so they can enjoy some free time or even just pop round for a chat and a cake with an elderly neighbour.

These are just some of the ways in which you could make a big difference in a small amount of time. If you have any other ideas or websites to add to this list, or want to share some of the things you do to help others, please don’t be shy – comment below!

– Luke