These days, people don’t need to search very far for an effective way to give back to their communities. With the growing demand for corporate social responsibility, the development of junior boards, and the rise of virtual volunteerism, anyone with a desire to contribute to the common good can find a creative way to do so.
Juggling the demands of jobs and family, adults might face a tough choice, as they consider how best to fit “giving back” into their daily lives. Should they volunteer their time at a local organization, donate money, or serve on a board?
Each possibility comes with a different set of dynamics to consider. To help our readers make the best possible decision, we’ve ironed out the benefits, requirements, and caveats of each choice.
Benefits: When done on a regular basis, volunteering can become a meaningful experience. Research shows that people who volunteer regularly experience better health, become more marketable, and feel happier. Over time, volunteers see the tangible impact of their work, which makes them feel like they are making a lasting difference. Often, volunteering allows people to practice and sharpen their skills. Volunteering can also give people a break from their usual activities, providing a welcome and relaxing escape.
Requirements: Unlike writing a check or swiping a credit card, volunteering demands a person to be present and engage in work of some kind. These days, “being present” can mean many things, as volunteering can be done traditionally at soup kitchens, tutoring centers, or large events; or, it can be done unconventionally, as a virtual volunteer or as a part of a skills-donor program.
Caveats: In order for volunteering to reap real rewards, people should be realistic about what time they can commit to volunteering. Even if it’s just an hour every Monday, volunteers should commit to that and stick to it. Research also shows that once volunteers block out time on their schedule, they actually feel like they have more time to give.
Benefits: Some people recognize that they are either too swamped with other obligations or otherwise not personally suited to volunteer, and so they donate money instead. Organizations need financial contributions, so the importance of this kind of support shouldn’t be dismissed as less genuine than volunteering.
Requirements: People should budget their donations in their monthly or annual budgets, making sure to include donations as expenses within their means. Also, people should obtain letters or receipts from the charities, indicating the amounts donated, which people can use for deductions on their taxes.
Caveats: If donors want their donations to be used for a certain purpose, they will need to specify their wishes. Unless the organization’s finances are very transparent, it is unfortunately difficult to track exactly how each donation helps the organization.
Serving on a Board
Benefits: Serving on a board gives people the unique leadership experience of manning the helm of a charity. Board members are a nonprofit’s agents of change, directly involved in advancing the organization’s mission. Board members have the exciting, albeit challenging, responsibilities of developing the organization’s strategy, connecting it to people and businesses to help it evolve, and mentoring leaders and staff.
Requirements: According to Shelly Banjo’s Wall Street Journal article, boards require much more time than they used to. Furthermore, different types of boards require different duties from its members. Governing board members oversee the Executive Director and are closely involved with the organization. They supervise the organizational development, operational strategy, and program development. Advisory board members do not control the operations of the organization, but they might mentor its staff. Primarily, advisory board members are responsible for fundraising and networking on the organization’s behalf. Junior boards are a body of young professionals – typically Millennials – who are responsible for networking, marketing, and fundraising. Known for their savvy media and tech skills, these young go-getters connect the organization to untapped audiences.
Caveats: Banjo warns people to consider that most board members are expected to donate money to the nonprofits they represent; the larger the organization, the larger the expected donation. Potential board members should also ensure that they are protected with liability insurance, which helps safeguard board members’ personal finances in case the nonprofit faces legal trouble.
Considering the variety of different options can become overwhelming. And, as our society has dramatically increased the value placed upon giving back, people can feel pressured to take on unrealistic amounts of charitable responsibilities.
But certainly, this isn’t the goal of social responsibility. So, what should be the goal?
Readers should think realistically about what type of giving most closely aligns with their passions, abilities, and time. Then, they should identify an organization whose mission seems most crucial to support financially or browse www.volunteermatch.org for a nonprofit with a suitable volunteer or open board position.
Committing to only what is realistic is not only respectable, it is what is in the best interest of the individual as well as the charity and its beneficiaries.
Learn more about how MobileServe can help you track and share your social impact through volunteerism by clicking the link below!