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How volunteering can make you a better gift-giver

By Luis Duque posted 12-20-2021 02:51 PM


Engineering is one the most fulfilling careers (I may be a little biased), as we work fully to serve the public. Our work is used by millions of people every single day. Additionally, most of us enjoy volunteering and giving out our time to serve others in need. There are many reasons volunteering makes us better engineers overall, but today I want to write about why it also makes us better at gift-giving.

Volunteering is all about caring for others

The main purpose of volunteering is to serve others. This makes us more thoughtful and open to think about what the other person may be looking for in a gift. Giving thoughtful gifts is more than simply going to Amazon and searching their gift guides. It is about thinking about what the other person needs and wants, thinking about the other person first and not what you think is fun in a gift.

Volunteering makes us think outside the box 

When volunteering, especially in developing countries, the solution may not be clear immediately. By being able to see different perspectives, we are able to think differently about what makes great gifts. We are able to deviate from common gifts such as books or clothes and look at interesting puzzles or interesting devices.

Volunteering focuses of functionality over aesthetics 

In my experience working in developing countries with EWB, we have built chlorinators out of PVC pipes and some strange systems that are functional. They may not be head-turners, but they function great and the communities use them every day. Equally, when giving gifts, think about what the other person needs or would actually use, rather than the hottest gadget on the market.

Those are my three takeaways as to how volunteering makes you a better gift-giver – they also are tips for getting someone a gift this holiday season. As engineers, we can use what we have learned at work and apply that to giving a more thoughtful gift. Not only does volunteering make us better gift givers but our engineering skills do too. From cost-benefit analysis to alternative analysis, we can use a lot of our technical skills to give the perfect gift.

If you are still looking for ideas for an engineer in your life, make sure you check out my gift guide at as well as some of my favorite books that would make a great stocking stuffer at

Luis Duque, P.E., M.ASCE, is an award-winning engineer with over four years of experience in structural engineering. He has worked in various industries, which have given him a broad understanding of different construction, structural design, analysis, and material design methodologies. Through his experience with ASCE, SEI, and EWB, he has been involved in committees related to business practices, leadership, mentoring, and student development, and he has supported communities in need in South and Central America for over eight years. Additionally, he founded Engineering our Future, an educational podcast and website, to empower students and young engineers to become leaders.