Sometimes a little help is all it takes, especially when you have technical skills to offer.
You may have exactly the skills a non-profit needs to expand its social impact. Or perhaps you could help a motivated youth get his or her first technical job. Your technical expertise becomes even more meaningful when volunteered for the greater good. How do you start?
Answer these questions to find the volunteering opportunities that could make the most of your skills.
- What social cause inspires you? Education? Environmental issues? Helping the disadvantaged? Disaster relief?
- What skills do you have to share? Programming? Systems design? Training?
- How much time can you allocate to volunteering?
- Could you volunteer onsite or only online?
Your answers will help narrow the search of non-profits to research. The Idealist directory lists thousands of non-profit organizations. Here are three I’ve volunteered with that look for technical experts. Perhaps one might be right for you, too?
There is a huge opportunity divide in our country. Millions of young adults in the U.S. have talent and motivation, but they lack opportunity. At the same time, companies have opportunities available, but they lack the talent they need to succeed. Year Up helps bridge this divide.
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Year Up follows that teaching model and has taught over 10,000 students since 2000. It has expanded from Boston to branches nationwide, and its corporate partners include Salesforce, Bank of America and AOL. Year Up's year-long program provides low-income young adults with the technical skills and corporate internships they need to land a job in technology.
For the first six months of the program, students develop technical and professional skills in the classroom. They learn network design, customer support, sales and presentation skills. Students then apply those skills during the second six months during an internship at one of Year Up’s corporate partners. As a mentor to a Year Up student, you’ll get to help young adults navigate new experiences and shape their careers. It’s a chance to inspire—and be inspired by—motivated, up-and-coming talent in the workforce.
Learn more about Year Up, and see how you could help someone start his or her technical career by being a Year Up mentor or by hiring an intern.
Royce Spencer interned with me from Year Up. His strong work ethic and the skills he learned at Year Up were impressive! "When you have limited opportunities, you definitely make the most of the ones you do get!" Royce explained.
IESC, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, promotes economic growth in developing countries. Since 1964 it has completed over 25,000 projects in 130 countries. Geekcorps, an IESC division, sends technical volunteers to developing countries to help with skills transfer and infrastructure development. Geekcorp's programs range from sophisticated technology installations to makeshift FM antennas cobbled out of soft drink bottles.
Register your skills with IESC, and you'll be notified about volunteer opportunities that match your profile. You'll travel overseas to help local firms with business and technical challenges where your know-how and contacts are often invaluable.
My four IESC volunteer assignments in Panama, Ukraine, Romania and Egypt were amazing! Your perspective changes once you've applied your work skills to help organizations with their local challenges and constraints.
Field Innovation Team (FIT)
FIT is the brainchild of Desi Matel-Anderson, the former chief innovation advisor at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This non-profit brings together leaders from IoT, robotics, design and disaster relief to create real-time innovative solutions during disasters.
FIT volunteers are trained in design thinking, improvising and collaboration through interactive workshops. These skills are vital for disaster response when both time and resources are in short supply. FIT taps into its pool of trained volunteers to quickly assemble a disaster response team. It has helped with projects related to Hurricane Sandy, the Boston Marathon bombing, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the Nepal Earthquake, Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the California drought crisis.
My FIT training taught us how to apply design thinking and technology to solve a simulated disaster. We worked in small teams to come up with ways to quickly get people into disaster shelters after a meteor crash knocked out all power and communications in a major city. The collaboration and innovation skills taught in the FIT workshop are also valuable in a corporate setting.
"To whom much is given, much is expected” goes the parable. Make sure to make the most of your IoT skills and help others as well. You’ll be glad you did!
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