Give of Yourself This Giving Tuesday

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Black Friday has come and gone. Cyber Monday sales are over. And the numbers are in. Drum roll, please. Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, online retail sales totaled $13 billion. Yes, that’s with a b. Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is designed to remind us that amidst the rush of holiday spending, we must also remember that in every community, there are people in need who need our support. Here are some thoughts on how you can participate in this global giving event:

Set aside funds for charity. Let’s say that between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you spent $1,000 on gifts for your family and friends (and you know there were a few purchases for yourself too). If you took just 10% of what you spent and gave that $100 to charitable organizations, you could make a difference in other people’s lives. (Could you imagine what it would be like if charitable organizations benefited from this 10% philosophy? Ten percent of $13 billion in retail sales equals $1.3 billion to nonprofit organizations. Wow. Imagine what we could do if we adopted this 10% philosophy.)

Think small, dream big. Within the nooks and crannies of communities are smaller, lesser known nonprofit organizations that achieve great things for the underserved, usually because the organizations don’t have as much overhead. Do some research and find those organizations in your community.

Give a little. If your funds are tight this year and you don’t have as much to give, then give a dollar or two. Do you realize that you can feed one hungry person an entire meal for about a dollar?

Volunteer. Beyond financial donations, charitable organizations benefit from hands-on help from ordinary people like you and me. Tasks can include serving meals, delivering food baskets, cleaning up properties, teaching people to read, or visiting the elderly. Organizations like Volunteer Match offer volunteer opportunities in more than 100,000 communities worldwide.

Let others inspire you. If you need to be inspired to volunteer, then review this year’s CNN Heroes list for consideration. The stories of unconditional love and a passion to serve will inspire you.

Be a positive role model. If you have children in your household, in your neighborhood, or in your workplace, teach them to care about others at an early age. Let them see you in action volunteering and helping others who may be less fortunate. Seeing is believing. You will inspire them to serve.

How are you celebrating Giving Tuesday? What one thing can you do to help others?

Get up-to-the-minute news posts by following Giving Tuesday on Twitter at @GivingTues.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: Get Involved in Make A Difference Day

DLPk7ggWAAAjC08.jpg-largeSaturday, October 28, 2017, is Make A Difference Day. Twitter: #MDDay. This event is one of the largest single days of service across the country. Projects range from cleaning up public parks and building homes to serving meals to the needy. The annual event began in 1992, sponsored by TEGNA, Inc. with the support of Arby’s Foundation and Points of Light.

You can either start a project or volunteer for a project that is already organized. Find a project in your community here from the Make A Difference website. When I searched for events in my zip code, I discovered 20 projects that are happening in my area, from park clean-up and reading to underprivileged children to building an inner-city garden hoop house and knitting warm scarves and mittens for the homeless. Also, check your local television stations, radio stations, public libraries, schools, park systems, or nonprofit organizations to find projects right in your community. Or if you are feeling ambitious and want to travel out-of-state, participate in a larger scale project or historic site preservation. You will feel inspired when you read the stories about the 2016 project awards.

Beyond this one national day of service, consider simple things that you can do to be of service to others every day.

At the end of the day today, take a few minutes to pause and reflect on what difference you have made – in the lives of people who you have touched or in your community. When you invest that time in assessing your impact on the world around you, you will value and appreciate your many contributions. You will feel great pride in what you do. You will inspire and motivate others to do more.

First, it begins with you. Take care of yourself and your health so that you can continue your good work. What did you do for yourself today that made you feel good about yourself? Did you start your day with nutritious food? Did you walk a few laps around your neighborhood to improve your stamina?

What did you do for others today that brought you joy? It could be something simple like packing a note in your child’s lunch, or involving a neighborhood in creating a delicious meal together. Did you open the door for a disabled person at the office? Did you help an elderly person carry her food tray to her table? Did you stop and visit a friend or relative who lives alone and enjoys your companionship? Did you give someone a chance to lead others because you believe in that person?

What did you do for your community today that made a difference? Did you bring your talents to a nonprofit organization’s board? Did you help to make an important decision that will have a positive impact on your community? Did you volunteer at a local fundraising event? Did you help build a home for a family in need?

If you want to invest more time in making a difference, then focus on that outcome. When you choose to do more for others, to make someone else’s life more comfortable, or to make your community a better place, the opportunities will come to you. You can also bring your own big ideas into fruition. Anything is possible when you have a strong desire to make positive change a habit.

Volunteerism Provides Lifelong Lessons in Leadership

internal-volunteerism8-734x265“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” Marjorie Moore

Thousands of American companies encourage employees to get involved in their communities by helping local or national nonprofit organizations like United Way, Habitat for Humanity, or the American Red Cross. Through volunteerism, employees learn valuable lessons in leadership, teamwork, communication and stewardship that remain with them throughout their lives. Much more than a resume builder, volunteerism allows individuals to learn and use a variety of skills. In honor of National Volunteer Week, give some thought to how you – and your company – can get more involved in your community.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its Volunteering in the United States, 2015 report, which tracked volunteerism from September, 2014-September, 2015. The report revealed that the greatest concentration of volunteers comes in these three categories: Just 14.6% of volunteers did so with social or community service organizations, compared to 25.2% who volunteered in educational or youth services, and 33.1% who volunteered in religious organizations. That means that community and nonprofit organizations must work harder to attract potential volunteers into the fold.

I began volunteering as a Girl Scout in elementary school and then as a Y-Teen through the local YWCA in high school. Having volunteered and led many organizations in my community throughout my professional career, I have learned that today’s volunteer requires shorter, more realistic tasks. Gone are the days when you could “easily” get people to serve on a committee or task for for one year or more. Today’s volunteer prefers to work on smaller, bite-sized tasks that can be completed remotely and in their spare time (what little they have of it).

The good news to come out of the BLS report is this: In recent years, there has been a slight increase of volunteers aged 65 and over. I attribute this to the high number of active Baby Boomers who have retired in recent years and who are looking to put their skills to work as volunteers.

Unsure of what to volunteer for? Consider online matching organizations like VolunteerMatch. What do you want to learn? What cause can you get involved in? What local organization could use your expertise? The choice is yours. Use your talents and skills to serve a community that needs you.

What volunteer opportunities in the community are being offered by your company that would give you greater responsibility and teach you new skills? 

What other volunteer assignments could you introduce your company to, which would elevate your company’s visibility in the community?

The Value of Volunteering

helping-hand-435x290Many companies today have created a culture of caring through community volunteerism. Whether raising funds for important research to cure a disease, teaching children how to read or building a home for a family in need, your involvement enhances the company’s visibility as a community leader. Your volunteer efforts  benefit you in two ways: You gain valuable experience in leadership, communication and stewardship and your hard work positions you well within the company as a team player and engaged employee.

In my case, everything I learned about leadership I learned through volunteer activities. I learned how to:

  • Understand group dynamics by working on committees
  • Supervise others
  • Delegate work
  • Work well with people from diverse backgrounds
  • Advance in the organization and accept responsibilities along the way
  • Negotiate
  • Think critically and creativity
  • Reach the top of the organization (as board president)
  • Inspire and motivate others
  • Share a vision with others
  • Develop a strategic plan for the future
  • Take responsibility for my work
  • Read and understand financial information
  • Plan and execute large projects

I learned all of these skills as a volunteer. Now, you may ask, “Didn’t you learn anything on the job?” Yes, of course, I did. Yet when it came to leadership skills, I learned them more rapidly through my volunteer commitments. An organization that relies on its volunteers isn’t going to fire its volunteers, so there is nothing stopping you from being your best and brightest. As a volunteer, the sky is the limit!

My experience of managing events as a volunteer committee chairperson came in handy when I had to manage large-scale events in my career. As a volunteer, you can learn and make mistakes. When it comes time for you to use those skills in your job, you will sail through any assignment. Because I experienced being a leader first as a volunteer, it was more valuable to me than reading leadership books. When working with volunteers, understand that they are already self-motivated when they volunteer (they know they are not getting paid for their time or ideas). To keep them motivated, make sure that their talents and skills are being used, not under-used, and recognized. Place them in positions where they can thrive.

What do you want to learn? What cause can you get involved in? The choice is yours. You can use your talents and skills to be in service to a community that needs you.

What volunteer opportunities in the community are being offered by your company that would give you greater responsibility and teach you new skills?

What other volunteer assignments could you introduce your company to, which would elevate your company’s visibility in the community?