In November, Gracias co-founder, Amy, contributed to The Shift Network's web talk about philanthropy and giving alongside Jan Masaoka, Executive Director of CalNonprofits, and Devaa Haley Mitchell, The Shift Network's co-founder. Here are some of the subjects they discussed:
- Get involved with something that you really care about. This will help you take the first step and make that call or write that e-mail.
- Offer skills you already have for a one-off project or on an ongoing basis. Most careers equip volunteers to make a really worthwhile contribution, whether you are a lawyer, artist, tax specialist, dancer... the list goes on.
- Offer different skills from those you employ in your working life. Sociable? Have an ability to talk to people? Talking about a cause and spreading the word at a charity event might be a fantastic skill you could offer. There may also be opportunities to learn new skills!
- Be clear about how much time you have to spare. If you want to work directly with vulnerable children or adults, be aware there might be ethical issues, for example repeated abandonment, which mean an organization has specific guidelines in place (in this example it could be a minimum length of time to be spent in the field). Try and be understanding, these guidelines are not there to make volunteering difficult, but exist to protect people.
- Behind the scenes jobs are just as important to an organization's existence as the more obvious front-line fieldwork. One cannot exist without the other. Even a smaller non-profit like Gracias has a website which needs regular updating, craves interesting and thought-provoking blog posts, requires social media posts several times a day, has to keep records and accounts, research liability insurance, and numerous other tasks.
- Use your hobbies or interests to raise money for your favorite cause. Whether it's photography, golfing, or drinking wine, you can use your hobby to offer free lessons or wine tastings to your own community and ask for donations in lieu of fees.
- Have fun! Some of the best laughs I've had have happened while collaborating on Gracias projects or finding articles for social media posts. I've read stuff that's made me snort with laughter when scouring online newspapers (I do occasionally go off on tangents...)
- It's a bit of a cliché but like all good clichés there's a nugget of truth in there, giving really does make you feel good!