Every day, dozens of commitments (and distractions) vie for our time. There are project deadlines, team meetings and client lunches to juggle at the office; chores, school work, sports practice and the ever-present question of “What’s for dinner?” at home. It’s easy to see how the idea of “giving back” gets pushed to the side, to become something you’ll focus on later — when the kids are grown or when you retire.
That impulse is understandable, but I would argue that you do have time right now to serve your community, to volunteer and help others. Here’s why.
You’ll Feel Better About Your “Real” Work
A number of intangible benefits spring from giving back: pride, satisfaction and accomplishment are just a few, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Volunteering is also a way to develop new skills and grow your network. It can even help boost morale around the office if you encourage your team members to join in.
Your Skills Can Make a Difference
I’m not a fan of the idea of running nonprofits (or governments, for that matter) “like a business.” They have different goals and constraints that make these sorts of truisms unhelpful as well as condescending.
But I am a fan of seeing entrepreneurs and business leaders take their skills and put them to work in the service of nonprofits’ missions. This was our goal with a recent social media contest that we entered (and won!) on behalf of the IRIS Domestic Violence Center. As part of Mercedes-Benz of Baton Rouge’s #CforCharity contest, the company allowed several members of the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report’s 2014 Forty Under 40 class, myself included, to drive its C-Class vehicle for one month. The winner of the contest got to donate $2,500 to the charity of their choice.
The Rep Cap crew and I decided that we wanted to do more than just post pictures of ourselves zipping around town in a sweet car, so we put our social media marketing skills to work and used the opportunity to collect donations for IRIS and document our efforts on Instagram. Our friends and clients showed up big time, donating diapers, gas cards and other items on IRIS’ most-needed list. We collected them all in the trunk of the Mercedes and delivered them to IRIS.
You’ll Actually Feel Less “Busy”
Time is a funny thing. We all have the same number of hours in a week, but we all experience it differently.
I know if I waited until I had “free” time to volunteer, it would never happen. I have little kids at home, a growing business and a lively social life (in Louisiana, we’ll throw a party or a parade for just about anything).
So how do I escape this trap? I don’t just find time for this unpaid work — I schedule it. I dedicate 10 percent of my work week for volunteering — for IRIS, the Baton Rouge Gallery and the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts Foundation.
The commitment boosts my personal and professional development, but it comes with another paradoxical benefit: I actually feel less frantic. It turns out that, for me at least, being generous with my time has a similar effect as tithing on my income. It makes me realize just how blessed I really am (no hashtag needed).