Volunteering – A Fundamental Duty

The word “Fundamental Duty” must have transformed quite a few people to their Civics classes in school. If you are someone who had a liking for subjects like History and Civics, you would be remembering the eleven duties of an Indian citizen. Some of you might wonder what the eleven duties are and if you do, then please read here

My reason for invoking the Constitution is that every citizen of this country is born with certain rights and duties. An ideal citizen is someone who fulfils his duties voluntarily. I want to highlight an important fundamental duty which is not part of the Constitution but still the need of the hour – Volunteering !!!

Imagine a day when every individual on this planet is content with his standard of living and gets a little more than what he requires to cover his needs. You might have just said to yourself that I am talking of an ideal world which exists only in dreams. I am a dreamer and humans chase their dreams and if they don’t dream they will never grow. A dream is nothing but what you desire in life, it’s a manifestation of your distant thoughts.

One of my favourite quotes from Civic classes – “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” – John F. Kennedy

Human beings have the tendency to be critical about the situations around them. It often stems from a feeling of helplessness. People are concerned about poverty, corruption, illiteracy, malnutrition and everything that affects another fellow human being. Everyday people read about these in newspapers and discuss it among their peers… do we just restrict these topics to a matter of discussion or we are going to “ACT” upon this.

By ACT I don’t mean everyone should join the social sector. (Actually if you are really motivated then please do join the sector!) However, I strongly believe that every person contributes towards the development of this country through their respective jobs. A business man contributes towards the economic development of the country, an artist work towards maintaining the cultural and artistic freedom of the country and the list goes on and on. My humble submission here is one can still “ACT” by staying in your regular jobs by volunteering your time and skills.

All one needs is the desire to change the situation. If you have the desire, you can volunteer from your own space. This is where skill based volunteering makes a huge impact.

As a volunteer manger, I have seen the impact of skill based volunteering in various non-profits. Your skills can change the lives of many people. If you are good at marketing, help them strategise with the marketing strategy for the products they manufacture. A communication person can help the organisation by using his content creation skills and knowledge of social media in reaching out to more people and sensitising them towards a particular social cause.

There is a lot of scope for a volunteer to bring about change as long as a person feels volunteering is a “Fundamental Duty”

If you feel so click here

Employee Volunteering – A Leadership Development Tool!!

Volunteering is stepping up the corporate ladder and gradually becoming an important pillar of corporate social responsibility.  From single day volunteer events to sustainable engagements, from sporadic activities to institutionalisation of corporate sustainability goals and from mere support, CEOs and CFOs are becoming the drivers and promoters of the volunteering programs.

Most of the corporate organisation are rooting to create tools to measure employee volunteering and using employee volunteering as a leadership development tool.

The idea of employee volunteering comes with an increased awareness of employee welfare and happiness. Everybody wants their employees to be creative and to think outside the box hence it is important to offer stimulating activities that will improve employee engagement. The activities should compel the employees to think and work in resource crunched space and limited budget.

If we look deeper into the community needs, we find the answer to corporate social responsibility, employee volunteering opportunities and a great team building exercise. Align them strategically  and let employee delve into consultancy, delivery and execution. What comes out is the most formed product of team work and a very meaningful community engagement.

It is not just team work but also a great peer learning experience. The senior employees provide consultancy, the mid level help deliver the ideas provided by the seniors and the same gets executed by the fresher to mid level employees. Through knowledge sharing, hands on experience and resolving challenges in limited resources, an employee emerges with more developed soft skills such as problem solving, mentoring and communication.

While every company’s volunteering strategy may vary, it sure is an effective answer to increased employee participation, motivation and their development into leaders.


“A change which I never thought would happen”


Meet Sunil Sethi, National coordinator at BYST, a Not For Profit founded by Lt JRD Tata that believes in turning Job seekers into job creators. Interestingly, this wasn’t Sunil’s introduction when he joined Delhi whiteboard in July 2011, till Jan 2014 he was CEO, VH Fashions a For Profit set up with no significant connect with the development sector.

Here’s his narration of this story of migration…..

My first job was at Oriental Carbon Ltd-Duncan Brothers. Shifting duty, a great place to learn how to work hard-too much of dirt at work place. Got motivated by the white shirt wearing sales person and started looking for a sales career and moved to  Graphics India-the sellers of XEROX in the country. Learned DSC02198my selling skills from the best trainers in the world. .Modi Xerox was yet to be born. Did well and moved to Network Ltd-part of HCL group to start their Chandigarh office, moved to HQ at Noida.

 After spending more than a decade and rising to head a profit centre, the journey at Network was historical-be it working at grass roots or at the top.At HCL a merger of companies started happening-started looking for a change and then Maxima happened.Maxima was a dream run and bought up Maxima like my own child. The salute we got from the industry was the birth of Sonata from Titan.

Then came the era of .com and entertainment. The offer was too good from Stracon -Sega and it gave me a opportunity in the International arena. The greatest learning at Sega was to be able to deal beyond the national borders.Then one fine day Sega decided to get out of the hardware business, the .com bubble was any way bursting.VISIT TO TURNING POINT REHAB CENTRE

Moved to GBC- Spice-net. Solidified my international exposure and learned the operations part in depth. The opportunity and exposure was not getting expanded because of the type of business we were in so moved to Dixon-Weston.Got a chance to revive a dead brand and enjoyed successfully getting it back on the block.Till one day there was issue of ownership of the brand Weston so decided to move on to VH Fashions.New business line, small organization settled it.

During my VH Fashion days came across Whiteboard on LinkedIn. Went to attend a meeting at Delhi and was there for a short while. The mix of people and the causes they were working for showed me a side of life which was unknown to me. I was moved and joined Whiteboard as a volunteer. Be it drug addicts, abandoned parents or children or the other professionals who volunteered for whiteboard, these people helped me to understand and relate to this new world.603204_10151698942446592_1741705148_n

This close association with the non-profit sector, working voluntary with Whiteboard sealed my decision to work for this sector. The volunteer experience at Whiteboard was my actual feel of this sector.

I am thankful to Whiteboard for giving me a great platform to volunteer.  The calling was there but Whiteboard paved the path and directed me. Each and every NGO which I was associated with at Whiteboard gave me a new learning. I do not have the words to thank Whiteboard.

Today working as a national coordinator at BYST from A CEO in the corporate world is a change which I never thought, but yes it happened because whiteboard.

1383021_10151698942166592_486574696_nWorking for a non-profit organization I feel gives you a feel good, tests you of your capabilities with limited resources. Seeing those smiles on faces of the people whose cause you are working for is ultimate. Although it’s early but I find it equally enjoyable to work for the development sector as the corporate.

10 Qualities that Non Profits look for in a Volunteer

Holding a Volunteer Manager position is not easy! We deal with motivations, agreements/disagreements and expectations of volunteers and non-profits on a daily basis. The highs and lows of each project result in many a lessons learnt and many ignored.

Volunteers must never make the mistake of believing that non profits are ready to take just about anybody and that they should be grateful if someone is willing to give their time for free. In fact it’s quite the opposite. People volunteer because they are passionate to bring a change in the cause they support and/or because they believe that they themselves can benefit from the experience in some way or other.

Likewise people running these non profits are also passionate about the cause they work for and thus want to ensure that the people who associate with them are right for the tasks.   So then what is it that Non profits look for in a volunteer? What makes a Good Volunteer?

  1. Enthusiasm- A positive attitude towards making your volunteering experience meaningful is absolutely vital! No enthusiasm can lead to volunteering becoming a burden for you!
  1. Non-judgmental Attitude – being able to take an objective view of the problems. Yes- there are issues in the non-profit setup. Yes- there may be more basic problems to be resolved. But the people who work in a non-profit are also passionate people who are striving to bring a change with the minimum resources they have. So they would appreciate it if you could raise your concerns and help them without being judgmental.
  1. Awareness – being able to recognize other people’s needs and able to look for ways to meet those needs as a result of training and your own life experiences. Non-profits always look out for volunteers who are well-read and well-aware of their skills and expertise and who keep the eye for innovations.
  1. Professionalism- Volunteers bring their best to their workplace, so it is expected that they bring their best to the volunteer effort. Mix your passion for the cause, with professionalism and the result is impressive- something a non-profit always appreciates!
  1. Compassion- having an empathy with the plight of a particular person or situation. If you have compassion for the people you want to benefit by volunteering, you’re definitely progressing towards something good.
  1. Commitment- dedicating oneself to a task. We often find volunteers who commit to a project and then go absconding. Little do they realize that non-profits are equally committing time to you, to get their projects completed. Of course you’re volunteering, but if you could only be sure before you commit, it would save them a lot of energy and time!
  1. Self Confidence– able to work both autonomously and as part of a team where necessary. A good volunteer takes the ownership for his volunteering project. He researches on the task at hand, builds strategies and works with the relevant people extensively on the task to be completed. Some volunteers go out of their way and get good deals for the non-profit or participate in their board matters as well.
  2. Good communication – able to relate to both fellow workers and those you are trying to help. A good volunteer effectively communicates and is also able to take constructive criticism on board to improve his own skills and ability to help others.
  3. Results Driven- able to achieve measurable results from a task. Often we come across volunteers who are unsatisfied with their work only because they did not place an outcome for their project. Nobody told you about outcomes? Be upfront and ask your non profit to help place outcomes for you. Everybody wants to generate a major positive impact!
  4. Constant Ambassadors- being able to represent a cause or a non profit. True volunteers don’t switch off! They constantly feel the need of spreading the word about the cause they support. They ask their friends to join the non profit or simply request people to follow the non profit on social media channels.spread

So dearest volunteers……

Forgive the resistance, Forget the delays,

Forget how somebody did not appreciate you in many ways,

Remember the cause, Remember your passion

Remember how you will make a difference with conviction!

It’s not a cake walk !!

Meet our very own Deepam Yogi, Ex Head of Marketing iVolunteer who currently Heads Operation at Social Access Communications, A marketing and communications Professional her strength lies in bringing people (things) together to provide unique, strategic and structured solutions to situations at hand. Committed to social change and an active volunteer herself, she believes that each one of us can impact social change if we have the intent to start with ourselves. She is passionate about social media and thinks it’s one of the biggest platforms to drive change today. If you don’t find her at her desk, she would probably be outdoors climbing a mountain or capturing the world around her through the tiny of her camera. .. or take a GYAN workshop , Why  ? let’s here it from her DeepamYogi

What does volunteering mean to you?

I volunteer Kos its my human responsibility. I’m fortunate to have received help throughout my life to do simple & small things and I’m not ashamed to accept that. I’d be ungrateful if I keep moving forward and not look around to extend help to those around me. For me volunteering is equal to helping another. And that does not mean helping only those who we refer to as underprivileged, everyone needs help. Sounds preachy right, but if you sit down to think, we are all volunteering all the time, we just need to be aware and extend help to those who really seek it.

How did you get introduced to GYAN, what motivated you to volunteer for it?

I was an employee of iVolunteer and was aware of the concept…my biggest observation of the social sector is the fact that it is full of passionate people working almost desperately to bring about a change. In doing so they would go upto any extend to reach out to as many people as they can. They are open to learning, open to collaboration, open to new concepts, new mediums. The modestly of the development sector to acquire knowledge for the common good of people motivated me to share my limited knowledge with them.

How would you describe your experience of taking a GYAN session?

GYAN is an interesting concept for exchange of skills. It reminds me of my school days where we exchanged notes with classmates simply kos she/he was more skilled in a particular subject than I was. The training session was insightful for me as I was able to hear the social media challenge of real problems from real people, not brands and their assumed problems.

Does the fact that the training is volunteer led have any significance on the takeaway / impact of the session?

I feel the exchange is far more constructive than any form of paid coaching. The impact of the session is largely dependent on the motivation of the volunteer kos anyone can have the depth of knowledge but everyone does not have the motivation to teach it for free and that too to people who are out there to change the world. Having said that, I also want to point out that’s it’s not a cake walk. Just kos it’s volunteering and training NGOs, one should not take it lightly. It’s a huge responsibility kos the NGOs are very open to learning and genuinely go back and attempt what you recommend.

Having engaged closely with Non profits, do you think trainings like GYAN can have a significant impact on the sector? If so, why?

Yes, training like GYAN can have a huge positive impact on the development sector. The small group concept of these sessions helps participants to address their specific queries as well as get a valuable opportunity for peer learning. NGOs not only get access to skilled volunteers but also open doors with the corporate sector. It facilitates a dialogue between the NGOs and corporate, which in my opinion has been lacking. The new company’s bill 2013 means approx 15000 cr odd rupees will be floated in the development sector from the coming financial year (2014-15). Training like GYAN is will definitely go a long way in enabling the development sector to prepare them to tap into this resource.

Do you recommend it to other professionals? If so why?

Definitely, I recommend it to all those who are willing to take a litmus test of the depth of their knowledge by addressing REAL challenges and if successful , gain the satisfaction of seeing its impact on the REAL world. In other words if I were to take a session for 8 students I will probably expect only 2 to apply it to their benefit however, if I volunteer for GYAN I am sure that my sincere efforts will bring a change in the work of at least 6 of the 8 NGO’s

Thanks Deepam.. I am In , hope I Qualify to volunteer for GYAN  !

Leveraging top talent to meet the community’s greatest needs!!

  • Saumya, a senior professional from a well established corporate volunteers during her lunch hours by talking to several vendors in getting a website done for a start up non-profit.
  • Kumar, another senior professional volunteers his time at a start up which mentors children on various career paths. He started as a mentor for five children and gradually got involved in strategically developing plans to scale up the organisation.

There has been an increasing trend of senior corporate professionals volunteering for smaller non profit set ups on a pro bono basis. By doing such pro bono projects, an individual grows and learns exponentially because of working with limited resources, acquiring new skills and enhancing one’s networking skills. Pro bono projects are an important part of skill based volunteering project that provides non-profit with skills and expertise critical to maintaining a productive organisation.

A non profit may not be able to ‘Hire’ a fortune 500 executive; however they can find a pool of 500 professional willing to volunteer pro-bono to help with various tasks. The benefit of such skill based volunteering is two fold:

Benefit to NGO:  Getting skilled volunteers to do more with less or no remuneration such as designing business strategy, creating brand strategy, outreach plan. By replacing high cost contract services with skilled volunteer services, non profits are able to stretch their grants/funds and show good custodianship of the funds available to them.

Benefit to Volunteers: Volunteering provides creative change from daily work that enhances the overall work experience. It provides volunteers organisational, leadership, communication and decision making skills.  Volunteering can help in expanding the work experience and thus ensuring better career growth.

Skill Based Volunteering (S.B.V.) is the answer to some good work experience for volunteers, lots of pro-bono benefit to community, good corporate citizenship for socially responsible business.

So let’s leverage the top talent within our network to take up some SBV projects…

The beginning of a never ending journey

Harish K. Shaw, an engineering student from Kolkata, has been associated with iVolunteer, Kolkata since last 3 years. Over these years he has taken up various roles such as content writer, brochure designer, teacher, PR and event manager. Here he talks about his volunteering journey with iVolunteer so far…

Hi, I’m Harish Shaw, an engineering student. No, let me say it again… Hi, I’m Harish Shaw, a motivated volunteer!

My decision to volunteer with iVolunteer drew from an impulse which pressed me to spend my semester break in a meaningful way and contribute my bit to the society.  Now, looking back that I’ve spent so far, I consider this period to be one of the best chapters in my life; and not a single day was tiring. My journey so far has been filled with fulfillment and cherished memories to carry through life.

In the course of my volunteering, I was exposed to the functioning of various organisations as well as senior volunteers already associated with iVolunteer. I visited an old age home along with other equally enthusiastic volunteers and I felt the work which these people have been doing was not only simple but extraordinary. Among the many initiatives, carried out by iVolunteer such as meeting the aged, thanking the police, teaching the blind, nurturing the development of underprivileged children, my favorite is the open air orientations, were we motivate new volunteers.

I had the wonderful experience of being the volunteer. I realised how volunteering has helped me improve my communication skills. I interacted with all our ex-volunteers and came to know a lot about previous activities. I felt a lot of pride and a deep sense of motivation. It has been a pleasure to work with Tanveer, Relationship Manager at iVolunteer, Kolkata, who amazes me by his strong commitment and motivation. Throughout my volunteering journey, I’ve always had a sense of working with him and never under him.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in all the activities and firmly believe that this is only the beginning of what I hope will be my never ending journey.

I would like to sign off with two of my favourite quotes:

“It’s not about what you get but what you get to give”  AND “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time, they have the heart.”     


-Harish K. Shaw


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