Photographer Susan Meiselas studied anthropology and got her Masters degree in Visual Education at Harvard University before beginning her documentary work.

From Volunteer to Employee

I have acquired several jobs as a direct result of volunteering for various organizations. My current position is no different. I started at Tacoma Art Museum as a docent in 2003 and was able to attain a position in the Museum Store thanks to an excellent recommendation from my Volunteer Supervisor. From there I have moved up in positions to my current job as Manager of Public and Volunteer Programs.

I have had the pleasure of overseeing Tacoma Art Museum’s volunteers since 2005, a responsibility I hold dear. It has been invaluable to get to see both sides of volunteerism and it has become even more clear to me how important volunteers are to nonprofit organizations. There are over 130 volunteers at Tacoma Art Museum that offer up well over 10,000 hours of their time per year collectively. According to Independent Sector’s Value of Volunteer Time as of 2011, that time would be worth over $217,000! Of course I know that, monetary value aside, volunteers give so much more than their time. They bring fresh eyes to an organization, contagious enthusiasm, and a desire to give back to the community—none of which can really be assigned a dollar amount.

From the volunteer perspective, volunteering offers a chance to get behind the scenes of an organization to see how it really works, and there is the added bonus of meeting and interacting with people, fellow volunteers and staff alike, who share similar interests. As a volunteer, one can “try out” an organization to determine the fit before jumping directly into a position that may be unsuitable. One can gain experience that leads to a paid position. In addition, The Corporation for National and Community Service conducted research on the health benefits of volunteering, establishing a strong relationship between volunteering and lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. Basically, volunteering is beneficial all-around, and is a gift you give yourself as much as your chosen organization!

 

Jana Wennstrom is the Manager of Public and Volunteer Programs at TACOMA ART MUSEUM

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