It seems like more companies than ever are organizing hands-on volunteering opportunities for their employees. In this post, I’ll share some of the lessons we learned during our most recent volunteerism to help you make the most of your own efforts.
At RoundPeg, one of the ways we do good is through our Peg Percent program. Each year, we donate 1% of our profits to a local nonprofit and stay involved throughout the year in many ways – including volunteering with them and attending to organizational needs.
Stepping Stones Shelter in Rockville, MD was our 2014 Peg Percent pick. Here are six things we learned from our time there that might help you as you consider building, improving, or re-working your own volunteering activities.
- Sometimes, There’s More Than Meets the Eye
Stepping Stones started in 1982 as the first homeless shelter for families in Montgomery County, MD. Since then, the list of services it provides has grown to include employment counseling, tutoring for children and adults and case management to connect families with other services.
I was completely unaware of these additional services until we started our volunteerism program with Stepping Stones. Depending on where you volunteer, you might be similarly surprised by the depth or breadth of the community impact of good work being done. If you learn as much as you can upfront, it’ll be easier to identify the opportunities where your contributions will have the greatest impact.
- Let Your Community’s Needs Guide You
OK, we already knew that Montgomery County is an expensive place to live, but we were shocked to learn that a single mom with two young kids needs to earn more than $77,000 a year to “make it” in Montgomery County.
Given that context, it made sense for us to support the families at Stepping Stones (70 percent of them are headed by single mothers). If you want to have community impact, pay attention to your context.
- Your Talents Can Go a Long Way
Leading up to #GivingTuesday and through December, we ran the Sudsy Sunday campaign to help Stepping Stones stock up on some much-needed toiletries and cleaning supplies.
As a marketing firm, it wasn’t difficult for us to develop and execute the online volunteerism campaign. Try to find ways to apply your professional skills to the needs of organizations you want to support – it’s a powerful way to make an impact and gives those organizations access to crucial services that might not normally be in the budget.
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- Theoretically Possible Doesn’t Mean Realistically Doable
We’ve offered Stepping Stones some pro bono consulting time to help with their outreach plans, but so far they haven’t had time to meet. Their hands – and schedules – are full helping struggling families in our community.
Sometimes the impact you can have isn’t determined by the kind of help you can provide – it’s determined by the kind of help an organization can use.
- Help is Always Helpful … To a Point
For the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, we sorted donations in the Shelter’s huge closet. Some of the items were very practical – things like winter coats for kids and women’s professional wear. Other items were a bit puzzling – like shirts with holes in them.
Devan Wilber, Stepping Stones’ Community Engagement Manager, told us about the time “Someone donated a pair of knock-off Louboutins!” The next time I’m cleaning out my closet, I’m going to pay much more attention to the quality and practicality of the items I’m donating.
To really be helpful, let the organizational needs guide your contributions. If you don’t, you’ll be spinning your wheels instead of providing real value.
- Doing Good Is Good – for Community Impact and You
Since I’m relatively new to RoundPeg, our work with Stepping Stones was the first thing to show me that the company values I’d found so attractive weren’t just words on paper.
As part of your company’s larger mission, I highly recommend spending some time connecting with – and helping – organizational needs in your local community. Hands-on, face-to-face work does a lot of good for others and
- Inspires you to work toward your purpose with renewed enthusiasm
- Helps you stay aware of the realities you’re trying to change
- Strengthens your team
- Broadens your perspective
- Makes you feel anywhere from good to absolutely amazing.
This content about community volunteerism was originally published on RoundPeg.