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I made a comment in the 'career discussion board' thread about volunteering that generated a few e-mails, so I thought I'd spawn a new topic for it.

About a year ago I began volunteering with my local Habitat for Humanity ( ) chapter.  I was originally interested in doing construction work, but quickly noticed that the website they had in place was in pretty bad shape, and not up-to-date.  After a few inquiries, I found out that the guy who had been running it gave up, and nobody else had taken it on.  So I volunteered to become their webmaster. 

It's been great - I get to excercise some skills that I don't normally use at work, and I get to help with a project that I really believe in.  I typically only spend a few hours a month on it, and I get to do it on my own schedule.  I've made a few contacts that could be professionally valuable someday, and I've helped one guy get a job with my employer (and got a referral bonus to boot!)

If you're out of work, this could be a great way to network and possibly fill a hole in your resume. 

How do you find opportunities?  Open the phone book and make a list of local non-profits you're interested in.  Find out which ones don't have websites (or have bad ones) and pick up the phone.  Check the websites of national organizations that have local affiliates (ie, ) that may not have sites.  Check with charities that your church supports.

Check Google for volunteer clearinghouses in your area ( ) that may be able to point you in the right direction. 

If you're interested in something deeper than running a website, think hard.  Maybe your local library could use help getting their catalog on the web?  Maybe a local school could use help setting up a mailing list application to notify parents of school events?

Remember, the orgazniations that may need the most help with computers and software are probably the ones with the least expertise.  They may not be aware there is a gap to be filled until you point it out to them.  Or they may think that the only available solutions are expensive custom packages that they can't afford.  Having a programmer willing to spend a few hours could make a huge difference to them.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002


Wednesday, November 20, 2002

On the other hand, I once volunteered to write some software for a charity, partly as a way for me to gain experience in that language.

So I was non-expert, unsupported by peers or by management, and with an ulterior motive as well -- neither my proudest accomplishment, nor the best thing that ever happened to that charity.

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, November 20, 2002

There is also the online volunteering agency Netaid which lets you volunteers for jobs across the world. It is a UN sponsored site which has a very very wide cross section of work available.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Be carefull!

If you have a standard "work for hire" employment contract, then you are violating it.

You may be liable for damages to your company equal in value to what they would charge for you as consultant.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

PS: Nice way to drive down salaries of other IT workers.  "Look, we can get IT workers for free now!" 
Supply/Demand can NEVER be stopped.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

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