Everyone struggles with volunteering. Let’s face it: every day is a struggle — to exercise for 30 minutes, to work for eight hours, to put dinner on the table, and then prepare for doing it all over again tomorrow. Finding the time to volunteer can seem like a barrier, but it’s actually the easiest part. The real challenge to becoming a consistent and engaged volunteer is defining what it means to you to give back — and deciding how you’re going to do it.
I imagine some of you are stuck here: I attended the Women’s March; donated to Planned Parenthood; called my representative … now what? Do I join a nonprofit? Which one? What organization’s mission aligns with my morals? What cause needs support?
Last Saturday, I attended the “Onward Together,” a DC volunteer and advocacy fair. The room was packed with people looking for volunteer opportunities, eager to be more involved. Each of the 25 or so tables of participants had a representative you could speak with, some swag to take with you, and — of course — a sign-up sheet. The energy was positive and inspiring, briefly liberating so many of us from feeling stuck in the limbo of not knowing what to do next.
But, as much as I appreciated what the fair provided and as thrilled as I am that more DC residents are engaged, the volunteer struggle was still there.
After the fair, I attended a CounterAct meeting, where we broke up into small groups to discuss our volunteerism and share resources. My group’s discussion lead to the shared conclusion that each of us has skills and talents the person next to us might not have, but could use. For example, one of our group members told us about how she volunteers her marketing expertise to a nonprofit immigration lawyer who wouldn’t otherwise be able to market her services to refugees. When she explained that this marketing was also intended to raise money, but she didn’t know a thing about fundraising,another member then offered her fundraising experience.
I realized then that CounterAct is a resource of resources; it can provide the tools we need to be more responsible within our communities, big or small.
And, I realized it’s time we look at giving back from a different perspective. What skills do I have to give? What resources can I provide?
We all seem to have the same general values: fight for human rights regardless of race, sex, religion, size, or ability; support organizations that support the greater good; maintain what we can of this earth for future generations; tend to those in need; and champion freedom and inclusivity.
We just need to overcome our individual sense of powerlessness. We need to organize.
Not having the same skills, talents, and personalities can be a major advantage if we each put forth our own personal strengths to support the causes we believe in. Our impact is more meaningful when we empower one another. It’s by working together that we can really make a difference.
This is the solution to the struggle.