Make A Meaningful Difference
Giving back to our communities and world is something wired within us, whether that’s expressed through the jobs we work or finding a passion we have after hours. But for those who are churning through the 9–5 grind, it can often be difficult to find meaningful ways outside of work to give back.
Luckily, daylight hours aren’t the only hours to make a difference. Whether you have a full-time job or other familial commitments, here are some ways to integrate community involvement into your daily (or weekly, or monthly) grind, based on where you have the most room to give with your time and talents.
Give Your Time: Volunteer On-site
If you’ve already found a nonprofit that you’re passionate about, think about diving deeper into the organization by joining a committee.
Oftentimes, you can start by joining an advisory committee, which consists of ongoing volunteer support to help with a specific project, or a specific team (such as events, a community ambassador, fundraising, etc.). You can choose to join for a six month or a year-long basis, and begin to dive into the inner workings of the foundation. These committees are typically made up of other working professionals, meaning meetings are flexible and can often happen in the evenings or on the weekends.
Those who are looking to take an even more active role in a nonprofit organization can also opt to take on bigger responsibilities as a chapter co-chair or even thinking about joining the board of directors for a local organization. (We know what you’re thinking: “board member” has an old ring to it, but you don’t need to have salt-and-pepper hair to contribute at this level!) As a board member, you’d play a key part in being a “sounding board,” sitting in on a lot of strategic meetings to make sure that the organization’s operations are advancing its social mission. As outlined by the National Council of Nonprofits, board members are responsible for the "foresight, oversight, and insight" of the organization. However, you should also keep in mind that board members are often held responsible to fundraise a certain dollar amount annually, and will have certain “give” and “get” quotas.
If your full-time job (or personal calendar) requires a lot of flexibility, block out “x” days every month that you want to dedicate to giving back. This could mean setting aside a day of the week, like your Saturday mornings, once a month, or committing to take on just one action item for your chosen organization, such as coordinating logistics and third-party volunteers for the next event, writing a blog post for the nonprofit’s blog, or scoping out a venue for the next team happy hour. Additionally, nonprofits are often in need of ad hoc volunteers for event or activity-based support, and will rely on seasonal or “one-time” volunteers to successfully execute their event. For busybees, this is often the best option in terms of giving time, as well as the best way to explore a range of nonprofit organizations and get your feet wet, before 100% committing.
Don’t forget to factor in the operations of the nonprofit and what hours it uses to fulfill its mission: if it tutors lower-income students after school, it’s possible you’ll need your afternoons free, whereas a local food bank is more likely to accept volunteers on the weekends as well.
Contribute Your Talents And Experience
Mentor a growing organization
If you’ve already taken on a more senior role in your professional career, you can also consider becoming a mentor for a growing nonprofit through various incubator programs for social enterprises, or serve as a board member on a nonprofit you support. Attend local meetings of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network or other groups where you can meet like-minded individuals. Sometimes, these opportunities won’t always be readily obvious or posted online, but can be unveiled in a well-meaning conversation.
Freelance virtually for the greater good
If you’re a pen-wielding modern day Austen, a STEM whiz who thinks of curly braces when someone says “Java,” or have other skills that don’t require you to be physically on-site, harness the power of the Internet in order to serve a range of nonprofits and “for good” organizations. Like any other operating business, they are frequently looking for talent to help redesign a website, translate international documents, manage fundraising and investor relations, and so much more.
Most positions are designed for busy professionals, requiring anywhere from just two to five hours a week, that can be done after-hours or coffee-shopping during the weekend. You can flex your skills (or even pick up a new one!) while making a positive change in your community. Browse a range of remote volunteer opportunities with Idealist or LinkedIn for Good by searching for the word “Volunteer.”
Of course, any opportunity to give back will likely involve a combination of giving your time, talents, and treasure, but it’s Important to find the best way to maximize your impact. What are some resources or ways you’ve found to give back? Share in the comments below!