Using Your Expertise to Make a Difference: Ways to Volunteer in the IT Sector
Do you know someone who spends time volunteering on a regular basis? Maybe that person is you, or perhaps youâ€™ve been thinking about getting involved in volunteer work. Everyone is busy these daysâ€”probably busier than ever beforeâ€”so why take precious time and dedicate it to volunteer service?
We believe volunteer service is a great way to broaden your horizons, both personally and professionally.
Here are a few reasons why itâ€™s great to engage in some sort of volunteer service:
- It helps you maintain a healthy work/life balance.
- Giving back to the community provides a huge sense of accomplishment.
- Volunteer work can be a great way to relieve stress.
- You meet new people when you volunteer.
- Volunteering, especially in a team setting, helps you broaden your ability to work well with others.
- Volunteers often gain new experience in a specific niche or expand their previous experience.
- Service work can be included on a resume.
Whether you volunteer throughout the year or give your time for specific events based on your schedule and what is needed, you can reap the benefits of giving back.
But where should you volunteer? How can you start?
Many people might feel overwhelmed when they think about volunteering in an area that is completely new or foreign to them. Itâ€™s tough to find time and energy to learn something from scratch. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™re big proponents of volunteering to causes that need your specific set of skills. Though being stretched mentally can certainly be a good thing, sometimes a great place to start with volunteer efforts is by just staying in your wheelhouse.
You can do a lot of good by volunteering in your area of expertise. What is easy for you may in fact be quite difficult for someone else.
Coding is a great example of this. The people who are skilled and experienced in coding may be able to solve a technical problem in about five minutes; this same technical issue would likely take a layperson much longer to unravel. We all have skills that can benefit others. Many nonprofit organizations do not have money allotted in their budgets to cover costs associated with coding, UX/UI design, database creation, and other technical aspects of keeping things running. Yet in todayâ€™s world, technical bases must be coveredâ€”even in a nonprofit company.
If you have IT experience, a bit of free time, and a desire to help, weâ€™ve collected a few resources to help you get plugged in and have given a brief overview of each one. Take a look:
Who can help: SocialCoding4Good is looking for people with skills in developing web applications, designing UX and/or UI, writing and reviewing technical documents, managing technical projects, and more.
Who it helps: According to the SocialCoding4Good website, this group assists â€śnonprofit organizations that are building, deploying, and maintaining humanitarian free and open source software (HFOSS).â€ť
How it works: Volunteers are matched with project partners (that are listed on SocialCoding4Goodâ€™s website) and can be involved in working on special ongoing projects, smaller projects, code review, etc. If interested in coding volunteer work, visit the website to review coding languages preferred.
Who it helps: VolunteerMatch is a volunteer matching service that matches volunteers with causes based on location and interest. The groupâ€™s site sums up its philosophy: â€śVolunteerMatch strengthens communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect.â€ť
Who can help: Anyone with free time and a willingness to help can utilize VolunteerMatch. Those with IT experience can choose causes that fit specific skill sets and interests.
How it works: Volunteers can search VolunteerMatchâ€™s website for causes; volunteers can also search by organization. Volunteer work can be onsite or virtual, and categories include animals, children and youth, education and literacy, seniors, women, disaster relief, international, crisis support, and more.
Who it helps: SocialCoder strives to help charities and nonprofit groups. Typically, volunteers are put on a team of people working toward a common goal, and volunteers from around the world give their time.
Who can help: SocialCoderâ€™s website states, â€śWe welcome programmers, designers, database administrators, IT experts, security experts, everyone with techie skills and experience.â€ť
How it works: Volunteers sign up and are matched with a project. The scope of the project is defined and agreed upon before each volunteer starts working. The amount of time donated is totally up to the volunteer and is also influenced by which task(s) a volunteer chooses. Some of the project categories listed on SocialCoderâ€™s website are: database design, security audit, technology review, simple marketing website, data transformation, bug hunter, performance/scalability, and software technical lead.
As you can see, there are some really great ways to donate your time and technical skills to worthy causes. If none of these seem like a good fit for you, another way to find volunteer opportunities in your area of expertise is simply to ask aroundâ€”coworkers, city officials, and nonprofit leaders may all know of ways to help in your area or abroad.
Volunteering is a great way to enrich your life. As Winston Churchill said,
â€śWe make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.â€ť