Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lessons Learned from the School Auction

I’ve always admired the moms who run the Home and School Club in our district. Many of them have stopped out of the workforce while their kids are young, and they are putting their work experience to good use in support of our schools. The work they do goes well beyond making copies and helping teachers in the classroom. Recently, I had the opportunity to see this first hand as I volunteered with annual school auction. So why volunteer at the school? Some ideas:

Try a new skill: Volunteering is a great way to work on a skill you are developing. I worked with one person who hadn’t ever done marketing, but wanted to try it. She had a lot of questions and was open to new ideas because this was a learning opportunity for her.

Share expertise: Many of the volunteers naturally gravitated to the area they already knew. That meant we had a former accountant managing the books, a PR person managing the communications, and a small business owner in charge of logistics. They brought their skills to this project and helped make it a more professional endeavor.

Try a new approach: I was responsible for the auction booklet, which entailed writing concise appealing descriptions for the auction items. It was a departure from talking about software, which gave me the opportunity to try a different voice, and play with words in a different way than I do when talking about our products. I also tried out istockphoto, and was quite impressed with the results.

Expand your network: Working on a school project like this is a great way to meet new people. You have a common interest, and have a reason to build a relationship beyond nodding hello in the hallway. A few of the people I worked with are job-hunting, and this project was another avenue toward finding a new position.

Try management: This sort of project is a great introduction to people management. The parents in charge of the event had to recruit volunteers to staff committees. They needed to find the right balance between will and skill to ensure the objectives could be met. They also had to keep volunteers motivated throughout the process and celebrate success at the end of the project. All are important management skills.

In this climate schools continue to be strapped for resources, and welcome assistance. If you are looking for a way to contribute, and to broaden your skills, may I refer you to your local school?

[schoolhouse picture from Rachel's flickrs']

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