Woodpiles for Nonprofit Employees
As we’ve pointed out in this blog since day one, your job or vocation is one of the three main avenues for building your Woodpile. Finding some way, through your employment, to give back and build up others is a critical part of impacting the community you live in. But it’s not the only way.
WORKING FOR THE COMMUNITY
When you invest as much time and energy into a job as most of us do, you can’t put all that on a little shelf and separate it out from “you.”
Some of us could be considered lucky, though. We work in a field, or a job, or non-profit company, that is all about making a difference in our community.
Through that work, we not only have an opportunity to build our “vocation” stack, but also our “community impact” portion of the woodpile. We can kinda kill two birds with one stone, right?
I’ve been there. You’re doing good work for people who have a need, sometimes for a lot more than 40 hours a week, and you know what it means to have an impact on those lives. There’s also no doubt that by combining the energy that goes into your vocation/job with your passion for the community, that you can achieve better results.
There’s something missing, however. It’s something I’ve discovered over my 20 years of non-profit work, both for me personally and in observing others.
Whether you’re a social worker, teacher, fundraiser, therapist, administrator, or fill in another of the hundreds of great non-profit jobs out there, the community impact you make is still tied to your job.
I’m thrilled that you found something that meets both your personal as well as community needs, and you get paid for it! But it doesn’t mean that you can skip out on giving back as a member of your community. In fact, it might be even more important to take deliberate steps to make a community impact outside of your job.
Let’s look at some reasons why.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, or so they say. I’ve found it to be all too true. Why is that?
You probably got a job in the public or nonprofit sector because you found you loved the work as a volunteer or a student intern. While going about your life, you caught a spark from the joy of community involvement and re-oriented your life in that direction. That’s great!
The challenge of making a favorite charitable activity your vocation is that there’s all sorts of “job” stuff that comes with it. Not necessarily bad, but certain aspects get old after a while or from time to time. Over a career, or even a few years, you may find yourself disconnected from the feelings you had as a volunteer. That’s understandable.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. By volunteering outside of your job, you’ll find that spark again. Find something that supports your self-care needs as well as helps others. There are a ton of fun possibilities!
One of the most wonderful reasons to be a volunteer applies to everyone, even if you work in the public or non-profit sector. That reason is to be able to express your gratitude.
All of us have a reason to owe our community something. Maybe someone served as a mentor that put you on the right path. Maybe it’s the public education you received. Maybe it’s just being in a community that you and your family love. Maybe it’s just the fact that your great public sector job is possible!
You CAN give those types of gifts back by getting involved and helping the next person or cause out. Don’t let your employment be a barrier to finding a volunteer role that gives you the joy of appreciation!
Open gratitude for those gifts we’ve received is a critical step toward our own fulfillment. It’s how we can fully appreciate just what those gifts have done for us. And the best way to own that gratitude is to give back freely so that someone else has their chance to receive.
BE A BETTER ROLE MODEL
Admit it, it’s tough to find a good role model these days, as much as they are needed. Celebrities? Nah. Politicians? Even more Nah. Anyone who has a spotlight on them is eventually going to be lit in an unflattering way. Right or wrong, it’s a fact of life in a social media-driven society.
Thinking that a role model has to be someone high on a pedestal is a bit narrow. More likely role models, people we can watch and learn from, are probably in your neighborhood, in your office, or in your school.
You have a chance to be that role model for someone. Being active in your community outside of work can enhance those opportunities. You don’t even have to want to or try to be a role model; it can sometimes happen in the simplest of ways. Don’t be shy. You got this!
YOU HAVE MORE TO CONTRIBUTE
Yeah, I know. Between the demands of your job and the needs of your family at home, you’re zapped. Not much more to give, right?
Well, you’d be surprised. Everybody, no matter where they work, faces this same challenge. Millions of people across our country figure this one out. Get active, impact your community as a volunteer even in some small way, and I guarantee you’ll find a new bit of energy you didn’t know you had. Or maybe a lot of energy!
That other organization, the one you volunteer for, is going to be better because of what you bring to the table. Just like any other volunteer, the value you add to the organization is going to make a difference. Why should the fact that you work for another nonprofit restrict that opportunity? It’s even MORE valuable!
GROW YOUR SKILLS
No matter how long we are involved in community and nonprofit work professionally, there is always more to learn.
Whether you’re an executive director, a direct support professional, or the agency fundraiser, it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and not worry about the big picture. The pressure to do things the way they’ve always been done can be immense.
Getting involved as a volunteer in another organization will introduce you to new people, new ideas, and new practices. It’s almost impossible not to take something away from the experience that you can use in your professional work that will make your work successful.
THERE IS NO FREE PASS
Those are just a few of the reasons why it’s important to be active in your community outside of work. You’ll probably find more (let us know in the comments!).
Building the woodpile in all three areas – family, community and vocation – is for everyone. It’s something that needs to be done deliberately. The outcomes of giving back in all areas will obviously make an impact on others. But it will also impact YOU.
Don’t let the fact that you “work” in a community role blind you to your own need to give back. If it’s been a while, give it a try. If you’re fully involved, thank you! Help a co-worker take the step. We’ll all be better off for it.
How has volunteering outside of your nonprofit job made your life better? Leave a comment below! Be sure to catch our future posts by following our Facebook page or Twitter feed, or leave your email in the box to the right. Thank you!