Jul 04, 2015


Latina Cubicle Confidential™ –Latinas as Volunteers: Saying Yes Wisely

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Volunteering Wisely

Latinas volunteer for plenty.  We take on community issues, school events, office celebrations, and champion special causes.   There is a clear priority in our culture on “giving back” or “paying it forward” especially among those who have achieved a college education or great business success.  It isn’t surprising however that occasionally we find ourselves in volunteer situations that prove to be less than rewarding.   Worse, we can get involved in a never ending series of activities that take up time and money or both that might have been better spent in something more productive.

Latinas—you know it– we have a heart of gold and we can keep volunteering regardless of the challenge it can pose professionally or personally.   Let’s do it right!

I am not about to say stop volunteering or giving of your time and talent to worthy causes, special events or career development opportunities.   It is wise however, to have a small set of warning signs to look for before jumping in.   First and foremost, does your volunteer effort have any clear goal or outcome that everyone is looking to achieve?  Do you have a clear set of tasks that you can complete in a timely way?  Treat all of your volunteer efforts like a project you might have to do at work.  Take time to assess the what, who, why and how of the work you sign up to do and place some time frames on your volunteering.   For example, you might agree to get involved and let the group know, “I have 20 hours I can provide this month—what do you want me to work on with those 20 hours?  And don’t be afraid to ask, “Am I the right person for that task or is this the best use of my unique skills?”

Next, take a moment to look for the right resources to succeed in your volunteer effort.  Are you being asked to “reinvent the wheel”?  This is truly a pet peeve for me, mujeres! There are so many free resources on the web—from An Internet Guide to Community Organizing to  Profitable Bake Sales   If you have signed up to volunteer to do something, learn from other’s success stories or failures.  Send an email to others attempting the same effort and ask for links to the resources they found helpful.  Post the question you have on your favorite social media site or use Quora to ask a question among a very broad range of experts, entrepreneurs, and activists.  One of the worst ways to donate your time and talent is to recreate something that has already been done or attempt something without looking at whether it has worked in the past.

Last, take a look at how others are holding themselves accountable to the project.  Is everyone doing a fair share of the work?  Is everyone meeting the schedule laid out for the project at the beginning?  Speak up and make sure you are clear about the expectation to get things done.  Unless you are leading the effort and you have taken full responsibility for the project, it is essential not to be left with the entire project all to yourself.  It happens.  Sometimes we can even find ourselves feeling like we must rescue the project from failure.  Stop.  Ask for the group to come together and speak up. This is the responsible action for you to do as a volunteer and as a leader.  Tell me about your volunteer experiences at Latina Cubicle Confidential™ and join me live at the next LatinaVIDA

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Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. Visit the Latina Cubicle Confidential™ Facebook (link below) or join Dr. Hernandez live at the next LatinaVIDA™-Visibility, Identity, Direction, Action.

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  1. As a professional Volunteer Administrator and former president of the Northern Virginia Association for Volunteer Administration, I applaud the many volunteers who provide much of the critical services needed in community. I would like to add that you don’t have to do it all! What I mean is that volunteerism works best when everyone gets involved. After all, true leadership is mentoring others into leadership and this works in the volunteer sector too. By the way, if you live in or volunteer in Fairfax County, VA, please check out this Volunteer Fairfax website which recognizes and promotes Hispanic volunteerism: http://www.volunteerfairfax.org/integrate.php.

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