A High Five for Hand-Raisers!

I am a serial hand raiser.

I raise my hand for all kinds of things. Room mom at school. Booster club president. Team photographer. Faith coach at church. Office engagement committee sponsor. The list goes on and on. I raise my hand for one-time opportunities; if you’re serving lunch at the Salvation Army and need more help, count me in! I raise it for longer commitments; when the call for mentors goes out, I sign up.

Why do I volunteer for so many different things? If you know me, you know it’s not because I have a lot of extra time to fill. My job requires a lot of me, and most days are long, but being a hand-raiser ensures that I have balance.  I am also a firm believer that you can learn a lot by raising your hand for opportunities in your school, neighborhood, community, church, workplace and more. I recently spoke to a group of young people about the benefits of being a hand-raiser. I encouraged their active involvement in the world around them because I believe they’ll develop good habits that will serve them well throughout their lives. To help them remember the benefits of volunteering I shared my “High Five for Hand-Raisers,” with the focus on the word RAISE.

The R in RAISE is for Responsibility.

When you raise your hand for something, it signals that you can be counted on to help in whatever capacity you’re needed. It also signals that you are reliable and willing to contribute. So many organizations count on volunteers for their success, so when you raise your hand, you are accepting responsibility for whatever you sign up for. When you follow-through, you are telling others that you are reliable, that you’re committed and a leader. For young people – and really any of us – as we seek scholarships for school, jobs upon graduation or opportunities to advance our careers, being a responsible hand-raiser can pay dividends.

The A in RAISE is for Action.

The most successful people I know are action-oriented. Many are also hand-raisers. Through volunteerism you can put your ideas and your passion for something into action. While you may do this in the classroom or at work, I think it is different as a volunteer. You are there not because it is required of you, but because you really want to be there. You are putting your passion into action, and that translates to rich experiences that you can’t get from a book or a classroom.

The I in RAISE is for Ideas.

Volunteering is a great way to test your ideas with others and flex your creativity muscle in new ways. In my experience, many organizations are looking for fresh ideas about fundraising, event planning, or program execution, especially if they are organizations without a global reach or infrastructure. You can share what you know and get feedback or sponsorship for those ideas. You may find an organization that can help you put your ideas into action. When you raise your hand for new opportunities in your workplace, you can shine a light on abilities that others may not see in their daily interactions with you, while gaining experience and making an impact in a different part of the organization. This can result in a win for you, and for your employer.

The S in RAISE is for Structure.

Do you think the way you do things is the best way to do them? Alternately, do you have a process for doing things that could benefit others? These are two questions that being a hand-raiser can address. As we all know, there are many ways to achieve a goal. While you may be comfortable doing things one way – your way – being a volunteer allows you to see how others approach projects, especially if the work you’ll be doing is different from your areas of expertise. You may be asked to work within an established volunteer structure – possibly approaching things in a way that is new or different for you. This might be frustrating, but it can also open your eyes to new learning. Or perhaps you’re volunteering for a group that needs more structure to be effective. Often non-profits and volunteer organizations can benefit from outside process or organizing acumen to deliver on their mission. In this instance you become the teacher, sharing what you know – and possibly teaming with others who have similar skills – to deliver much-needed expertise to a group in need.

The E in RAISE is for Experience.

I have had some amazing, life-enriching experiences as a hand-raiser. You can too! I’ve been exposed to people of different cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, faiths and political persuasions when raising my hand for a good cause. It’s beautiful when everyone comes together for a common purpose, despite our diverse backgrounds. I’ve been able to try new things, and even if my work isn’t perfect, I do know it is needed and appreciated. I’ve learned from others, polished some rusty skills and shared a bit of what I know. I’ve had experiences that make me a better co-worker, neighbor and mom. For young people, these experiences build a richer resume to make them stand out in their college and job applications. They learn to interact with new and interesting people. It’s also good for their soul.

As we move into 2020, I urge you to make a New Year’s resolution to raise others up by being a hand-raiser. Consider inviting others to join you, making it a family or team resolution. You might be surprised at what you learn, what you can give, and how good it feels.

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