Saturday, May 29, 2010

Finding Your "Comfort Zone" In Working With Charities

Several weeks ago I made a conscious decision to move from wanting to do something positive in my community to actually doing something positive in Ft Myers Florida. Among the various acts that could be considered "positive", I couldn't think of anything more positive than volunteering at a local Ft Myers food bank or soup kitchen.

I wanted to find out what organizations provided food bank or soup kitchens in Ft Myers, selected one near me, and reached for the phone to start making calls to see where I might fit in. I discovered that a local food bank in Ft Myers needs volunteers, specifically drivers for the meals on wheels and to pick up food donations.

Before my hand reached the phone a funny thing happened ... I felt uncomfortable ... I felt unsure ... I pulled my hand back away from the phone and went back to thinking about it! I recognized immediately that this was strange behavior, but the fact was calling to volunteer my services to help others was not in my comfort zone. I began analyzing and rationalizing ...

"Maybe I'm biting off more than I can chew?"

"Will I be able to fulfill the obligations I commit to?"

"Do they really need MY help ... I can only do a little?"

"Can I handle being witness to the hardships of others, especially when it involves children?"

These and other questions filled my mind and haunted me for several days. I eventually came to realize that the real issue was that I was about to leap into an area that I had no experience in, that I'd had little exposure to, but in spite of my lack of background, wanted to make a contribution that mattered. I saw it as an opportunity to be less than effective ... an opportunity to fail! As soon as I understood this I reached for the phone again, and then pulled it back once more ... I decided I would go and visit the organization in person.

I walked into the food bank unannounced and waited in line for my turn to speak with the lady at the front desk. The others in line were there to pick up food, and while it was obvious they were there because they had need, their spirits were high and their outlook upbeat. As I watched the administrators and volunteers dispensing the food going about their duties it was apparent that they felt good about what they were doing ... the whole room was filled with an air of positivity! Just standing in line watching these people interact with each other allayed 50% of my anxieties regarding volunteering! It was simply people helping people! When my turn came to approach the receptionist I sat down and told her I was interested in volunteering she seemed excited by the idea and called one of the managers from the back to speak with me. We went into her office where she gave me an overview of what the organization was about and what they were trying to achieve, and told me a little about the groups history. What was evident to me was that by virtue of the fact that I wanted to help ... I was already accepted as part of the family! The more we talked the more eager I became to show I was worthy of being part of their organization. I accepted a route on their "Meals on Wheels" program and will begin making deliveries this week, and intend to keep my eyes and ears open to see if there are other ways I can help.

Now looking back on my anxieties with volunteering they seem quite foolish. I imagine it's part of human nature, like your first day of grade school, or asking a girl on a date for the first time. Our minds seem to conjure up visions that are awkward or uncomfortable, when in reality it is a natural thing, just part of growing as a human being. It has occurred to me that there are probably many like myself who have wanted to volunteer, and wanted to do something positive for their communities, but felt awkward getting started. I would suggest that if you can put your fears aside long enough to take those first few steps you will quickly discover, as I did, that helping those in need isn't so far out of YOUR comfort zone at all!

Richard Thomas, Social media/SEO Consultant in Ft Myers Florida, Writer, interested in making a positive difference in my community including but not limited to: regional search engine marketing for small businesses in Ft Myers Florida. Local Google Ranking Improved for both companies and charities. 501c3 non profit promotion done pro bono.

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