“I want to give back to the community. Where do I start?”

If there is anything I get asked super super often, is the question above. Ok, actually, it’s more like this:

“Yo dude, I want to volunteer and do something for charity. You know something I can get involved with?”

And of course, I respond with what everyone would respond.

“You can donate money to me.”

I kid. I kid. Ok, I don’t kid. I’ll take money from anyone who is willing to voluntarily give it to me without asking for anything in return.

But why do they ask me this all the time?

Well, it’s because I’ve been volunteering at large since I was in high school and I began to challenge myself with how I can do more with the same amount of time. Meaning, how could I increase my efficiency in fundraising and creating movements.

Fast forward to just shy of the age of 25 and I get a surprise visit from the media at charity event where I thought they were honouring some fellow community dude. Nope…that person was me. They found out I raised $1,000,000 incognito through different fundraising events that were underneath the radar except for one man who knew everything. His name is Max Keeping – my mentor, brother and the best friend anyone can ask for. He recently passed away and left a legacy of giving that can be matched only by an army of givers.

So there you go…I just revealed my one secret to success at such a young age – Max Keeping. If it wasn’t for him (and another awesome man named, Dave Ready), for introducing me into their networks, I would not have had the chance to inspire and motivate so many individuals to support my various missions to better the world. And I have to say the biggest lesson they taught me was what made volunteerism an even more rewarding experience. The operant here is reward.

I learnt that we volunteer to help but to have that sense of reward that we’ve made a difference with who are. But it is the reward part that I think people have undersold themselves. Dave and Max each had a way to teach me this lesson. But here are the 5 highly interrelated key lessons I learnt about volunteerism that is critical for us all to make a big and long term positive impact in this world.

  1. Volunteerism should be seen as an exchange

… where both beneficiaries and volunteers gain something…experience, skills, connections.. So that both can self-sustain longer. If you want to give in the future, you need to exist in the future.

  1. Avoid the Raisin Effect (RE)

…or you’ll end up in the emotional/financial ER. This is related to number 1…maybe they all will be! The point here is that having the ultruistic message is key, but I’ve seen way too many (and I’ve been there more than once) who give up all their time and money and they was left dried up like a raisin.

  1. Slow and steady always wins the race

This is related to number 2 and number 1. Wow! I’m known to get a little sarcastic here and there. I learnt that what the community needs is a committed volunteer. Commitment means you get involved and you stay involved. There are many ways to give back but it’s important to never give up on giving back. The way to do that is to know you always have something to give. Brains, money, time, etc. So try not to go ALL in and then do a houdini on the community. Those who did this have expressed that it has led to bouts of depression. I’ve been through this. Yes..I’ve fucked up many times and proud of dem moments.

  1. Plan!

Most people start with this advice. The reason this is the second last point is now that you’ve read the first several points, I’m hoping your mind is now in that space and ideas have already started. Now you are ready to plan. Remember #1. Exchange. Start with recognizing all the gifts you have (which includes who you are) have them in front of you somewhere. Then write down what you love. What you care about. What community/charity challenge you want to solve. Then marry all that goodness together.

  1. The less you expect the more you will get.

What’s up with this right? Isn’t this the opposite of number 1!!!?? Nope. Many people go into volunteerism with an expectation of something in return, like customers, meetings, support, etc. If you go in with these expectations, you will not make a true meaningful contribution. Talking to literally thousands on this topic, the majority have expressed that they feel most rewarded when they just focus on the mission. That’s it. Now, what you can expect is to deliver the best of you possible into the project you have chosen or developed. By virtue of that, you will grow in the best way possible. This is true authentic volunteerism.

Here’s my TEDxTalk: Volunteerism: The Best Platform for Personal and Professional Development