December 17, 2012
Too busy to volunteer? Here's how to squeeze it in
Erin McHugh had been working as a bookseller during the day and author at night. Her jam-packed work schedule left her little time for volunteering. Feeling unfulfilled, she decided to try an approach she could squeeze into her routine -- one small good deed every day for a year.
Her deeds ranged from taking a senior out for ice cream to donating books to the local library. As she started blogging about her mission, others piped in. “I realized the small stuff is what people could relate to. Asking someone to take a whole day off and do something in the community is too hard for some people.”
Much like McHugh, American workers are finding ways to participate in volunteering, even as their work hours increase. Among men and women in professional and managerial positions, a whopping 38 percent of men and 14 percent of women worked 50 hours or more per week in 2011. At the same time, the volunteer rate rose by 0.5 percentage point to 26.8 percent for the year, with more than 64 million people volunteering at least once, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are ways to help you fit charity and volunteer work into your work-life balance.
Multitask: Volunteer work can double as a way to raise your business profile, squeeze some exercise into your agenda, or meet a romantic partner.
Detra Shaw-Wilder, a litigation partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, focuses her volunteer involvement in efforts to increase minority lawyers in the legal profession. “All my dollars, time and energy go into that,” she says.
At the same time she is donating time to bar associations, she also is building a reputation and connections in the legal community. “The way to balance is to find things that have a return for you personally and professionally,”she says.
Meanwhile, Adrianna Truby, a teacher at Miami’s Palmer Trinity School, takes a different approach, participating in the growing trend of combining exercise with volunteer work. An avid runner, Truby has become a captain for Team in Training, a program sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society-South Florida chapter. Truby spends her Saturdays training volunteers to run marathons and personally runs to raise money for the organization.
Make it your hobby: For workers trying to avoid burnout, volunteering has become a hobby or passion that provides meaning outside of their careers. Miami publicist Amy Zakarin says that her involvement in animal rescue and welfare brings her fulfillment.
As a volunteer, Zakarin rescues dogs and lends her expertise to the cause — occasionally in ways that benefit her clients, too. For example, she set up a fundraising event, hosted by a client, to raise money for the Humane Society of Greater Miami and worked to publicize the event.
Get your company involved: Corporate volunteerism is on the rise, with more businesses organizing service days or group projects. At Molina Healthcare, employees are paid their typical rate for doing volunteer work in the community. Molina says this benefit helps with employee satisfaction and encourages community involvement.
“It’s nice to go out there as a team to give back to the community,” says Ariana Nunez, who chairs Molina’s employee-activities committee in Miami. “Some people lack the motivation to do it on their own. All we have to do is sign up, show up and do the work.”
Build it into your business plan: Some leaders are building businesses around charitable giving. Tony Lamb, founder of Kona Ice, operates his business on a model that teams up with schools, community organizations and youth sports teams. The company and its franchisees give 25 percent of gross sales from a fundraising event to the local organization.
Kona has donated more than $10 million to communities from the 300 franchises he oversees. “We are attracting franchisees with an understanding of the way our business model runs and love giving back. The goodwill is tremendous,” Lamb says.
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