How to Volunteer Your Skills as an IT Professional

Todd Micholic, an American Family Insurance IT career management advisor

If you’ve got a knack for IT and are seeking to use your personal and professional skills and talents to serve others, consider online IT skills-based volunteering — it’s an opportunity to work with a cause you’re passionate about, while using your best skills.

Take it from Todd Micholic, an American Family Insurance IT career management advisor and longtime volunteer. Todd shared his experience with skills-based volunteering and how he’s been able to leverage his tech savvy IT skills to help others. Here’s what you need to know about online IT skills-based volunteering and how to get involved.


Table of Contents

What Is Skills-based Volunteering?

How Can IT Professionals Volunteer Their Skills to Help Nonprofits?

What Does IT Skills-based Volunteering Look Like?

What Is the Most Rewarding Part About Volunteering?

Advice for Someone Who Wants to Start Volunteering Their IT Skills

What’s the Best Way to Find IT Skills-based Volunteering Opportunities?

How to Volunteer Your IT Skills During Social Distancing

Support for Your Dream

What Is Skills-based Volunteering?

Skills-based volunteering may sound like it’s simply volunteering a specific skillset, but there’s so much more to it than that!

According to Todd, “Skills-based volunteering is volunteering with a non-profit or educational institution using your professional skills to improve, advocate, promote or enable the organization to impact more people positively.”

Skills-based volunteering is an innovative movement to help nonprofits and other types of entities successfully achieve their missions, thanks to these volunteers. Nonprofit resources can be stretched thin — especially when it comes to budget for additional headcount.

So, skills-based volunteers are called to action to use their specialized skills and talents to lend a helping hand at no cost.

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How Can IT Professionals Volunteer Their Skills to Help Nonprofits?

If you’re an IT professional looking to share your knowledge and do some good in your spare time, there are many ways you can volunteer your IT skills to help nonprofits. According to Todd, here are some common ways IT professionals can volunteer their time:

  • IT developers can mentor individuals of all ages in learning and enhancing coding skills in a variety of different programming languages (e.g., Maydm, STEAM & Dream, Mansfield Hall, icStars)
  • Developers can teach nonprofit groups/cohorts of people, who are learning IT, various techniques or IT tools, essential to IT work (e.g., icStars)
  • IT professionals can contact local school administrators to find out if their schools are partnered with nonprofits, like Girls Who Code, and work with them or begin a partnership with a tech-skilled nonprofit for your local school
  • IT developers can volunteer their skills to build or enhance websites or a variety of apps that a nonprofit utilizes to do their work or to market/organize their community activism
  • IT professionals can recruit specific skills from nonprofit training graduates, technical college and universities
  • Security professionals can help nonprofits secure their site and avoid future threats
  • Data Analysts can help nonprofits figure out how to use their data and more efficiently report out the data they have

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What Does IT Skills-based Volunteering Look Like?

Todd’s role as an IT career management advisor at American Family Insurance, and his many experiences prior, have given him a variety of opportunities to volunteer his IT skillset. Todd says skills-based volunteering takes on many looks — from working with bigger nonprofits to one-on-one mentoring, and because of this, he’s been able to offer his IT expertise on many levels.

As a young programmer working for the State of Wisconsin Health and Social Services, Todd was asked to share his expertise with an organization called LIFT and teach people with physical disabilities to code in COBOL. He mentored and trained two students, and though he says the technology wasn’t quite ready for the moment, it taught him the power of giving back.

He reminisces, saying, “This experience led me to discover the power of IT and how it can change lives. I became even more empathetic as a person, too.” This experience is another great example of how skills-based volunteering helps others and can be life-changing for the volunteer.

Another way Todd has been able to offer his expertise and make a difference was through one-on-one coding volunteer opportunities. For starters, Todd mentored a fifth grader in coding language, where together they worked through the JavaScript curriculum.

While Todd had actually never wrote JavaScript himself, he says, “Once you know how to code in a computer language, you can figure out the syntax of other languages, especially with a good curriculum.”

This goes to show that, just because you don’t have expertise in something, it shouldn’t hold you back from using your professional experience to help others. You never know what can come of the time you give to someone, especially a young student! Perhaps the most critical part of this experience for Todd was helping inspire the next generation of coders.

Currently, one of Todd’s biggest interests is finding skills-based volunteering opportunities for IT professionals with Your Cause, American Family’s volunteer and fundraising directory.

Through Your Cause, he was able to judge a STEM prototype event for Hmong fourth graders — another opportunity where Todd was able to inspire the younger generation to pursue the IT field!

However, you decide to volunteer, remember it’ll provide growth for you as well. When asked if he’s gained any new skills from volunteering his IT prowess, Todd says, “Of course! I always learn more from those I mentor or help than they learn from me.

At least that’s the way I interpret it. I’ve learned so much from my interactions with the diverse people I work with that it doesn’t feel right to be in situations without diversity in the room. I just know the decisions made in those meetings will be of lesser quality.”

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What Is the Most Rewarding Part About Volunteering?

No matter how you volunteer, giving your time to help others has many benefits for your mind, body and soul! Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose: it can bring happiness, help you meet new people, strengthen your local community and provide an opportunity for you to gain knowledge and understanding of other ways of life.

To Todd, volunteering his IT skills has given him many experiences that have shaped his interests and growth. Todd is inspired by seeing those he teaches excel, saying, “Seeing those you have helped get promoted, get their first job or breaking through and really understanding what they are coding."

"Also, seeing someone who lacked confidence go on to display confidence. And seeing someone who you mentored start mentoring someone else and making a difference.”

Volunteering can be great for your employer, too. Many companies, like American Family Insurance, see great value in encouraging employees to volunteer their skills. Promoting skill-based volunteering is an excellent way for companies to enhance corporate social responsibility initiatives.

And doing so can boost the morale of employees by connecting them to causes they care about by tapping into their passions. It’s about helping employees achieve a higher purpose and increase employee engagement. Talk about a win-win!

Does your company promote skill-based volunteering? Consider connecting with your manager or human resources to find opportunities in your organization.

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Advice for Someone Who Wants to Start Volunteering Their IT Skills

Interested in volunteering but haven’t volunteered in the past? No worries! With Todd’s advice on volunteer work for IT professionals (and other professions), you’ll be ready to get out there in no time.

1. Trust the skills you have

This is an essential ingredient for volunteering success. You have a talent or experience that you can share with others who need guidance. At that moment, you are uniquely qualified to help them learn something new.

2. Volunteer more

You’ll continue to get better with experience, so volunteer MORE. Seek out volunteering opportunities and try to take advantage of as many as you can. Practice makes perfect!

3. Be flexible

It’s imperative to prepare, but you also have to be in the moment and be willing to improvise or even abandon your great plan if needed. Being agile and finding something that works for you and the people you are helping should be a top priority.

4. Include the experience on your resume

Listing your volunteering experience on your resume or LinkedIn profile can be an effective way of bolstering the odds you’ll find future work opportunities. Employers or recruiters typically keep an eye on job candidates with a history of giving back, so don’t be surprised if they reach out.

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What’s the Best Way to Find IT Skills-based Volunteering Opportunities?

If you aren’t sure where to look for online IT volunteering opportunities, we’ve got you covered. “There are so many IT skills-based volunteer opportunities,” Todd says. “Almost every nonprofit, whether focused on IT or not, needs IT help.”

Todd suggests contacting family, friends or your employer to learn about new opportunities. Otherwise a quick Google search is an easy way to find organizations near you where IT volunteers are needed.

You can also head to Blackbaud, an organization that supports workplace giving and volunteering initiatives. This is where Todd has found many of his volunteer opportunities. Take the time to search around for something that interests you!

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How to Volunteer Your IT Skills During Social Distancing

In general, volunteering has undeniably changed since the pandemic hit. Since social distancing is encouraged, you may wonder how you can still offer your time to those in need. Todd says that staying safely apart is not a problem!

“Actually, the pandemic has been great for IT volunteering. I’ve volunteered for icStars and Maydm in the same day — no travel time needed in cyberspace.” Prior to 2020, Todd volunteered primarily in person. Now it’s all virtual, which has given him the opportunity to do more.

Since your skillset is primarily computer based, you can still be of service to nonprofits and other organizations without seeing them in person through online IT volunteering.

Todd does say that human interactions can be challenging when volunteering virtually, especially with kids. “You can’t high five a kid who breaks through with new coding challenge or give them candy for figuring out how to code a loop. So, it helps to take time off of a rigorous curriculum and just talk.”

He goes on to say that it’s important to build a relationship first, if possible. “If you can relate to someone about the food they like, the video games they play, the sports they watch, the art they like or the books they like to read then the teaching or mentoring is much easier.”

Whatever the case, don’t let social distancing stop you from finding an IT skills-based opportunity to help others. Now more than ever nonprofits need the support of volunteers like you!

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Support for Your Dream

Let’s admit it. Volunteering your time and effort to a worthy cause simply feels good. Knowing you’re helping someone in need can bring joy to your life and others.

And, while volunteering at a local shelter or animal shelter is a meaningful and worthy way to give back, donating your tech talent or a specific skillset to a good cause is a great way to grow as an individual and professionally. You never know what dream volunteering could spark!

Feeling inspired? There are other ways to support dreams. Check out our guide to giving back for other opportunities to contribute to your community!


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