Big Ideas ALA President’s Letter

There Is No “I” in Team, but There Is a “U” in Volunteer!

Volunteering has always been a part of my life. I cannot think of a time in my career when I was not giving of my time and talents in the pursuit of helping others or participating in something to impact the change I wanted to see. From drafting wills for first responders pro bono to mentoring law students to serving on the ALA Board of Directors, I truly believe you get so much more than you give when you volunteer. More importantly, it just makes you feel good, and we all need a little more of that in our lives right now. 

Sarah Evenson, JD, MBA

I can hear you all as you read this listing all the different reasons why you do not have the time to volunteer. We are all working and experiencing change at a faster pace than ever before. There are more demands being placed on all of us to do more with less. Also, it is harder and harder to strike the right balance between important yet competing priorities. However, there is no greater priority than yourself and your total well-being. What I have found is volunteering can help you to find and connect to things that are truly important to you and bring a greater level of satisfaction to your everyday hustle and bustle.

Here are the top five reasons why I volunteer:

1. Happiness Factor

Volunteering has been proven to not only increase happiness but also boost your self-esteem. It has exposed me to so many fun activities, given me opportunities to travel to new places and brought many new professional connections and personal friends into my network whom I would not have met otherwise.

2. Investment in Yourself

Warren Buffet said: “The best investment you can make is in yourself.” Volunteering allows you the opportunity to learn and develop new and valuable skills through actual hands-on experience. This is especially true if you go beyond participating and agree to lead some aspect of your volunteer experience.

3. Increased Sense of Purpose

Volunteering allows you to have an impact on something bigger than yourself and your own career. My mentoring relationships have been some of the most valuable professional learning opportunities for me. Also, there is a huge sense of pride when you look back and see the benefits of something you helped create that outlives your tenure.

4. Growth Mindset

Author Adam Grant recently posted this on LinkedIn: “The highest form of self-confidence is believing in your ability to learn.”

“What I have found is volunteering can help you to find and connect to things that are truly important to you and bring a greater level of satisfaction to your everyday hustle and bustle.”

Volunteering has helped to get me doing more things outside my comfort zone. Allowing myself the opportunity to volunteer and try something new and fail has been an important part of my leadership journey. As a result, I am more comfortable raising my hand for those stretch opportunities because I have proven my capacity to learn new things and figure it out along the way.

5. Improved Perspective and Empathy

Volunteering has helped me better understand the experiences and perspectives of others. So many times, we approach issues from only our own experiences. Learning how to connect and understand others helps us to be better leaders and more empathetic which has shown to increase innovation, engagement, retention and inclusivity.

So if you want to be happier, healthier and have an increased sense of purpose, VOLUNTEER! If you do not know where to start, check out these sites to help connect you to unlimited opportunities in your community: Last, but certainly not least, visit the ALA Volunteer Opportunities page, where you will find a variety of opportunities that vary in time commitment and activity level.

If you are new to ALA, do not wait to share your perspective as your voice is critical to our current work and our future success. We need your time, talents, skills and experiences to help ALA continue to be the undisputed leader for the business of law.