Being a volunteer – what I’ve learned

I’ve only been a volunteer with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) since 2015, which, when compared to other volunteers, makes me a complete novice. Over that time, I’ve supported CIPR Inside, the Professional Membership and Development Committee (PDMC) and most recently, I’ve been part of the team driving the agenda around mental health and wellbeing in the CIPR Health Group. Along with being a volunteer in my local village climate group, this has made me reflect on my role as a volunteer and what I - and those I support - get from it. I’ve learned so much - why volunteering matters to people and how to effect change. Here’s six things that have stood out the most for me.

Image - Rawpixel, Pixabay

Image - Rawpixel, Pixabay

  • Membership of a professional body is important to me – and is something clients and peers respect. CIPR aligns with my values and that’s why I joined in the first place, almost 20 years ago

  • Complaining wasn’t helping me - I will confess that I used to moan about CIPR. I thought there wasn’t enough representation of internal comms in my industry and what were they doing about it? What about mental health and wellbeing? And, in terms of the climate crisis, I was stuck and unsure how to help. So, I decided that if I wanted to see a difference, I needed to be part of the team to try to help make change happen.

  • Volunteers work flipping hard – everyone I know who volunteers (and not just in CIPR) does it in their spare time, usually around a busy job or business and family commitments. I’m working for people I know personally, on issues that matter to them (and me) so it makes it worthwhile

  • HQ teams in professional bodies - and CIPR is no different - do a fantastic job – in my book they often don't get enough credit for the work they do

  • It’s a great way to meet new people – I’ve met some great and highly skilled people who I’d never have met if I hadn’t volunteered, plus I’m involved in things I would never have done before.

  • Finally, giving back helps wellbeing - ‘Give’ is one of the five ways to wellbeing, so getting involved in this way can help you too.

To be perfectly honest, I had little idea what was involved in being a volunteer or why people do it when I put my hand up to be part of the team. I’ve learned that everyone has a different reason for wanting to do it; for me, it’s about giving back, making a difference based on what I feel is right and, for CIPR, supporting the next generation of communicators. I wanted to be more involved as a volunteer to support the communications community that I’ve been part of for more than 25 years (crikey), in areas that really matter to me.

Like me, if you find yourself moaning about something, including the professional body you belong to or wonder what the heck goes on behind the scenes, have a think about how you might be able to support what they’re doing so they can help us all.

You don’t have to become a volunteer - it’s not right for everyone. But sharing structured feedback and ideas with relevant groups and keeping up-to-date on what’s going on can all help to make a difference. Whatever you do, get involved!