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Volunteering Doesn’t Have to Be Unproductive

I’ve volunteered a few times and each time I’ve regretted it. My first encounter with selflessness was a few years back. A friend roped me into teaching English to a group of foreign students striving to attain US citizenship for 10 hours a week. “Easy”, I remember thinking, “I’ll pop on a tweed blazer, puff on a pipe, and teach everyone in ear-shot advanced English while making a bunch of new friends.”

My dream was shattered the moment I walked into the classroom. I was barraged with questions about thorny dangling modifiers, idioms I didn’t know existed, and verb problems I thought only belonged in college level French classes.

The only way I could teach the class was by using the Socratic method of questioning. Whenever I was asked to explain something I’d invariably answer with a question: “It sounds right, doesn’t it?”

Empty stares greeted me.

Most classes would turn into long discussions on what the dating scene was like in everyone’s respective countries. While I helped the students bone up on their conversational English—I certainly wasn’t giving them the practical tools they needed to hammer out an ‘A’ on their upcoming exam.

After a few months my volunteer time was up and I didn’t renew my vows. It was too difficult, tiring, and frankly unproductive for everyone in the class.

This is the basic problem with volunteering. People have good intentions, but sometimes they are slowly strangled in the hands of the wrong non-profit organization.

What’s the point of volunteering in a soup kitchen if you can’t cook? Why volunteer at a resale shop that donates its profits to charity if you don’t have any retail experience (or can’t stand on your feet for over two hours in a row)? Why teach English if you don’t have any classroom prowess?

Thanks to, volunteering doesn’t have to be so mismatched anymore. It pairs professionals with non-profit organizations—via the great, all-reaching, power of the internet.

So, let’s say you’re a really good Marketing Manager and you want to volunteer somewhere—Catchafire can help you find an NGO that desperately needs marketing advice. It’s better than making rock hard cookies for a bake sale or attending a charity cocktail hour filled with three hours of speeches.

You get to volunteer at a place that needs your skills, not just your sentiment, and you also get to network. It’s a win-win.

Catchafire demonstrates that online networks can produce positive value—not simply friend requests and follows.