The Secret Benefits of Volunteering

Posted by , on September 30th, 2016

NOTE: This blog post is intended for college instructors teaching event management.

When a teenager learns to drive there are two parts to their education. First, they study a book and take a course to learn the rules of the road and other important details. Then they go out and get behind the wheel of an actual car and practice driving. And as much as the course can cover, there’s really no substitute for being out on the road.

Teaching events are no different. As instructors there’s much we can teach about event management in a classroom. Students can learn best practices about goals, timelines, budgets, floor plans, and the like. At some point, however, they’ve got to experience the event planning process for themselves and fill in the blanks.

So how can they cut their teeth on real events, besides the one you might have them organize in your class? Volunteering, that’s where.

Benefit #1: Employers Love To See It

Just about every industry leader we interview for tips on getting started in events mentions the benefits of volunteering to help organize various events.

Beyond the experience, students get to put these events and organizations on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Employers love to see that they’ve made an effort to get involved and plan events in whatever capacity they can. In addition to the experience, it shows employers the student has a true passion for events and hospitality.


Benefit # 2: Hands On Experience

Most nonprofit organizations that host a 10K run, gala dinner, or other fundraising event have one or more volunteer committees that make it happen. These are tremendous opportunities where people with little or no experience can wind up taking on responsibility of important facets of the events.

Volunteers can be involved in the advance planning phase, working on auctions, marketing, fundraising, registration, site selection, menu planning, pricing, etc. If they can’t make that kind of time commitment, there are usually plenty of day-of opportunities to help with set up, check-in, gift bags, directional support and the like.

Benefit # 3: Learning Social Dynamics

Beyond getting experience in various tactical event elements, student volunteers get exposed to the important nuances of navigating the various interpersonal dynamics that are a part of every event. They’ll learn how to satisfy a demanding boss, observe social dynamics during committee meetings, see how organizers respond to the pressure of hitting fundraising goals, and numerous other situations.

There are tons of opportunities to get their feet wet working on events for student organizations (see below). Even better, however, are opportunities where students experience working with adults out in the ‘real world’, as that will better expose them to the kind of working environment they’re likely to see when they enter the job market.

Where To Look For Opportunities

  • Student Organizations. On every college campus there’s a plethora of events planned by student clubs, teams, fraternities and sororities.
  • University Events. The schools themselves host a wide range of events for alumni, faculty, students and donors, many of them high-end affairs.
  • Performing Arts Centers. Many universities also have theaters or performing arts centers that host numerous events as well.
  • On-Campus Conference Centers. Increasingly colleges are creating and marketing on-site meeting rooms as conference centers to external clients, which provide great meeting planning opportunities.
  • Local Charities. Every community supports a number of non-profit organizations, including charities, religious groups, hospitals, arts centers and more.

How You Can Help

Let’s face it: students aren’t always the most proactive people around. You can make it easy for them by pulling together a list of volunteer event opportunities. In addition, reach out to the school’s event staff, which might be located in the alumni or external affairs department. Invite one of them to speak in your class early on, and share their upcoming event calendar.

End result: The student benefits by gaining important experience. The instructor benefits by helping to better round out their students’ education. And the local organizations benefit by having enthusiastic young volunteers to help make their events successful.

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