Ask KL: How to Give Back While Working Full Time

As we get into the holiday spirit, I keep thinking more and more about giving. 

I'm lucky. My company has a robust volunteering program and I'm allowed three days to use exclusively for the #EMCGivesBack program. That means I can take time "off" working at my local food pantry or picking up trash on local trails. 

The Global Solutions organization at Cradles to Crayons, a Boston-based non profit that provides clothing and toys to kids in need.

The Global Solutions organization at Cradles to Crayons, a Boston-based non profit that provides clothing and toys to kids in need.

To make real and lasting change through giving, it takes a little preparation:

First: do some research. Figure out if your company has a similar program. If it doesn't, here's your chance to be an intrapreneur: start one. If you've never volunteered as a group, ask your team leader (or heck, your CEO!) for a day of teambuilding at a local charity. Making a day to give back is a great way to network and get to know your colleagues better. 

Maybe you're not the type to get your hands dirty, but you're a social media whiz. Help a non profit build their next social campaign. There's plenty of services out there to find the right one:

  • Catchafire works just like any dating site. After uploading your LinkedIn profile and choosing your most passionate causes, the service feeds a list of projects from nonprofits around the world that best match your skills. I love the opportunity to work on projects tailored to what I care most about AND what I'm good at.
  • Volunteer Match: A nonprofit dedicated to providing information about local volunteering opportunities, this service is great if you love to participate in events.  I found everything from volunteering at the local elementary school sock hop to the senior center. Focus is on local, which I love.
  • Taproot +: Similar to Catchafire, Taproot + matches you directly with projects based on your skills. Most of them are geared towards people with experience, so I haven't looked in to this one that thoroughly.
  • Linked In Volunteer: I haven't tried this new feature in LinkedIn yet, but like its job board, it helps you find listed projects or long term pro bono gigs.

Or, reach out to your local charity of choice directly to see if they need any help based on your skills. Help them analyze some data or write their monthly newsletter. If you can't help with a specific project, but know someone who can, that's just as valuable. Having worked at a non profit, resources are tight, people most of all. Connecting a person to an organization is definitely worth your while if you can't help on your own.

Most of all, make a habit of donating. The effective altruism movement argues that the more money you make, the more impact you have. By building your income and regularly donating to effective charities (meaning charities with significant ROI on investment) we all can give better. Peter Singer, the father of effective altruism, explains it best in his TED Talk.

Need some inspiration for donation? I'm a big fan of these charities:

  • Cradles to Crayons: Cradles to Crayons believes every child deserves “to feel safe, warm, ready to learn, and valued.” Its factory model pairs high quality donated toys and clothing directly to kids in need.
  • Opportunity International: Unleashing the power of entrepreneurs across the developing world, Opportunity International works to alleviate poverty through microfinance loans.
  • Partners In Health: PIH revolutionizes public health by setting up clinics, making house calls, and staying in the communities they help to heal. If you haven’t read Paul Farmer’s story, it’s definitely worth a read.
  • charity: water: Charity:water focuses on providing clean, safe drinking water to people all over the world as it serves as the foundation not only for sound public health, but education and economics. Water changes everything.

Check out a full list of vetted charities here.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead