Many term the Holiday season as a time of giving but I think that over the years we've gotten the giving wrong. Giving doesn't mean shopping for the perfect material item to give to somebody or trampling over one another to get the best deal on Black Friday. To me - giving has always meant compassionately doing an act of service for someone else with a smile and a big dose of enthusiasm. Over the years, I've been lucky enough to work for companies that truly care about giving back to the communities where their employees live, work & play, which has provided me with the opportunity to give back, both on and off the clock! In honor of #GivingTuesday - a global day dedicated to showing generosity through giving initiatives, I'm sharing my four favorite ways that YOU can give back this season to make an impact in YOUR local community:
1. Champion A Giving Initiative at Your Workplace - Most companies have a volunteer program for employees that ties into their social responsibility goals and corporate citizenship initiatives. As a key player within your organization (my belief is that every employee is a key player in their org!) it's up to you to help direct those volunteer programs, to match the interests of you and your co-workers (more on this later) so that you can truly make an impact in your community. This year at shark&minnow we came together as a team to brainstorm what was most important to us when it came to giving back and how we wanted that to be reflected in our #GivingTuesday initiative. What we came up with was a way to use our expertise in strategy & consulting services to help a Cleveland non-profit solve a marketing challenge they are currently struggling with. You can read more about it here. My point is, that without having that team brainstorm, we would not have individually come up with an idea that excited us collectively. Use your voice at your workplace to rally your teams around the idea of volunteering out in the community. Don't forget to mention to your HR department that in addition helping a deserving non-profit, giving back can boost morale and increase employee happiness - sounds like a win-win to me!
2. Make Volunteering A Social Affair - So many times I've heard people say they'd like to volunteer but are afraid it will be boring and aren't willing to go by themselves. If you've ever sorted medical supplies at MedWish International and met the lively Shirley, you'll instantly realize that volunteering is not boring and that most organizations have group volunteer activities available. You'd be surprised how much more fun an evening of volunteering can be as opposed to your typical night out at the bar with friends. Research from the Mental Health Foundation says, “Face-to-face activities such as volunteering at a drop-in center can help reduce loneliness and isolation,” making group volunteering the perfect pick-me-up. My favorite local group volunteer opportunities include:
- Sorting food at The Cleveland Food Bank
- Participating in a Blitz Day with Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland
- Working on a build with Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
3. Opt Out of Presents - What if instead of asking for any material items this year, you instead asked that your friends, family & significant others volunteer with you - Sounds a little crazy, right? Believe it or not, this is what my fiancé and I have decided on doing this holiday season instead of exchanging gifts. I've found that as you grow up and get older there's less of a want or need to be showered with presents. Most of us have everything we need and usually buy what we want for ourselves throughout the year. So why ask for even more things? Spending time volunteering with those that you care about most, not only creates an amazing memory but makes an impact on local non-profits that could really use the help! I challenge you to think about all of those things you thought about including on your Christmas list and instead think about what you can do with your time that will help someone else.
4. Interest Match - Not sure which local non-profit to volunteer with? Choose one that aligns with your interests & passions! In my previous role as the Community Development Specialist for the Beachwood Microsoft Store, one of my responsibilities was influencing a team of 40 employees to volunteer out in the local community every month. Along with the team, came 40 unique personalities, interests and areas of expertise. It would have been silly of me to think that everyone would be interested in volunteering for the same organizations. So instead, I made it my mission to learn about what was most important to each of the team members and match their interests to the volunteer opportunities. With all of the great local non-profits out there, I can see how choosing one to volunteer with can be daunting. Get rid of the stress and make it easy on yourself by thinking about what lights you up and gets you excited. Have a passion for fashion? Dress for Success of Greater Cleveland might be the perfect non-profit for you. Do you love playing with adorable animals? Maybe the Cleveland Animal Protective League would be up your alley. You get the idea. When you choose an organization whose mission aligns with your values, you'll be more motivated to stay involved and your genuine enthusiasm for what you doing will shine through.
I hope that these four simple ideas spark your interest in giving back this season. Giving back will always need generosity and compassion fueling it, combined with the human element of YOU. Let me know how you'll be giving back over the holidays by tweeting me @BrittanyNeish!
Brittany Neish: with a diverse background in the Publishing, Technology, and Retail industries while working for companies like Great Lakes Publishing and Microsoft, Brittany has formed an eclectic business viewpoint. As the Social Influence Strategist for shark&minnow, Brittany creates authentic interactions online and in-person. A self-declared professional development enthusiast, eternal optimist and give-back junkie, you will regularly find Brittany volunteering for local organizations and curating networking events for her local YP Group, Levo League.