Saturday, February 16, 2013

Volunteerism Done Mindfully

Me (on right), posing with sweet friend + local restauranteur 
while volunteering at the WinterFest Chili Cook-off  in 2011

A few events are on my agenda today; most notably: a breakfast date, downtown, with Mark, a late afternoon massage at the fitness center and dinner (possibly takeout, tonight).  There’s another important action I’m taking today, though...  I’m volunteering at a local Zonta fundraiser, the WinterFest Chili Cook-off (proceeds are used to support the club’s Women’s Scholarship Program). 

Working full-time, writing, blogging, etc., etc., etc., I’ve had to develop ways that enable me to contribute my time more thoughtfully than in years gone by.  Below are my key tips for volunteerism done mindfully:

Select a few organizations/causes near and dear. Then, concentrate your charitable efforts amongst them:  Right now I have two organizations I primarily donate my efforts to on a regular basis:  Zonta and the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women initiative.  Taking time to selectively choose causes near and dear; then, concentrating my efforts, meaningfully, amongst them makes me feel I’m making more of an impact than volunteering for a host of many causes/agencies. 

Establish boundaries:  I never agree to do anything that makes me feel “put upon” or stressed out.  If I’m too busy to volunteer, I don’t sign on to do so. I reserve my efforts for those times when I can share myself more freely. Another option is I sometimes offer to donate small blocks of time.  For instance, today—I’m volunteering from 10:30 to noon.  This enables me to give back, and still do everything else slated for this weekend.  It’s a well-balanced approach that keeps me from burning out (so, in theory, I am likely to contribute more, overall).

Make contributing fun and meaningful: Our local Zonta Club’s volunteer activities are set up to feel very social.  Today, I’m helping Chili Cook-off participants to find their set-up stations.  I’m doing so with a host of dear Zontian friends I adore being with; so, it makes my volunteer experience a fun one.  Addicted to writing (wink), my contributions for the Go Red for Women campaign are often in the form of written articles, blog posts, letters to policy makers, etc.  This makes volunteering not only more enjoyable; it is more meaningful to me.

Get creative with your contributions: Sometimes, I don’t have time to donate an afternoon of my time to a worthy cause.  Instead, I’ll look at what I can do.  For example, could I instead write a press release for an upcoming fundraiser versus being there?  Or, might I be able to pull together + contribute a themed basket for an event’s silent auction—rather than helping to set up for it?  I like having the opportunity to get creative with how I can make a difference.

Would love to hear any of your tips for mindful volunteerism!  Joy and peace.  T.