Opinion: Volunteering isn’t always altruistic as it seems

Not all nonprofits will be run the same or utilize volunteers in the same way, but volunteers need to take note of the diverse organizations that can use their help.


Nick Rohlman

Icicles form on the Old Capitol on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019.

Kasey Baller, Columnist

Volunteering can give many memories and morals for a lifetime. It can help individuals discover their passions as well as lead some into a career. In the Iowa City area alone, dozens of nonprofits seek volunteers to stay open, as they cannot operate successfully alone. 

In college, many seek to volunteer with such organizations to become more involved in the community and gain more experience pursuing their passions. Volunteering is also for those who plan to attend graduate school or who hope to bolster their résumés.

Obviously, the humanity of helping others is more important than how it makes one look. College students need to be more aware of the missions behind the organizations with which they volunteer and determine what best suits them. All nonprofits need community-member assistance, not simply just the attractive and popular organizations.

When hearing the word “nonprofit,” some immediately think of an organization that doesn’t have more than a handful of full-time employees and assists the needy. As this is true of many nonprofits, not all fall into this strict category. One example is the Iowa Children’s Museum, which has full-time employees and paying customers. In order to make sure everyone in the community can be involved, the museum holds family-friendly events that are free to the community. Some events are so big that the museum needs up to 40 volunteers to assist. It is important to note that such organizations still need volunteers.

After speaking with Children Museum Executive Director Jeff Capps, my idea changed of what makes a nonprofit a good fit for those looking to get involved.

I asked Capps about the importance of college students getting involved in the organization. Capps has worked with nonprofits for many years and said each nonprofit utilizes volunteers differently, but because of funding, most would not make it without volunteers.

Museum volunteers are utilized in more of a structured manner and are part of the commitment to carry out its mission of encouraging others to learn through playing. Capps said this is best carried out when volunteers can implement what they have learned themselves. This is why the museum’s college volunteers are so vital to its program, as their passion can positively influence others. You can better understand how to assist others in their learning, which is especially beneficial for those considering majoring in education or working with youth in the future. Many volunteers have a strong tie to the mission and the power of play, as they played at the museum when they were growing up and feel it is important to pass along the mission.

At the end of the day, no matter which nonprofit you choose to volunteer with, you are making a difference in the world and your work is needed. Community connections are vital to success.

Keep an open mind, as there are many types of nonprofits that need your help and will create a positive and meaningful experience.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.