Going corporate and volunteering: they are not mutually exclusive
Shaughnessy Miller (CVV20) is a thoughtful and loyal friend who believes in the healing powers of laughter, ice cream, and Broadway musicals. She is deeply intrigued by the world around her and sees every experience as an opportunity to learn more about herself and others.
Corporate America gets a pretty bad rap. Images of stifling your personality and will to live in a cubicle prevail and are especially repulsive to the full-time volunteer. And while I won’t deny that full-time desk work is a challenge, it does not have to be soul-sucking. In fact, there are many ways to be connected with your community both through your workplace and individually.
Community involvement in the workplace
Chances are your employer already offers volunteer opportunities, time off to volunteer, and donation matching opportunities through United Way or their own program. Though many larger companies advertise this in their recruiting and as part of their marketing, other times it may not be as publicized. In doing your job search, look at the company’s website and social media for this information and be sure to ask about it in job interviews.
Still, if you do land a job (nice work, by the way!) that doesn’t seem to have many volunteering or giving options, remember that YOU have the power to change that. In my case, my company openly advertises our spirit of giving and puts our values of God, family, and community up front in our mission statement and on our website. Despite this focus, it was still lacking in communication and action surrounding these statements. Since company leadership knew of my volunteer commitments, they asked me to strengthen our commitment to the community.
I jumped at the opportunity. It went hand in hand with my marketing role and my interests. Now, I curate a page on our website with volunteering opportunities, put together company-wide events, and handle communication surrounding our giving and volunteering. Admittedly, I work for a small, family business, but I believe that you can still have an impact on the culture of your company regardless. You could start a fundraiser, involve your coworkers in a nonprofit you support, start a regular newsletter, or create a giving report.
Do your own thing!
Of course, you can always find a way to get involved outside of your workplace. After several months of living in my hometown and focusing on my job search, saving money, and finding community, I knew it was time to recommit myself to regularly volunteering.
As I thought about my interests and desires for how to give back, I knew it had to be relational. CVV focuses heavily on companionship and sharing our story, and that rubbed off on me. Though working with food banks and organizations like Habitat for Humanity is hugely important, I desired to have regular connection with members of the community. There are so many options in this field (see sidebar), but I honed in on Big Brothers Big Sisters. I first learned of this organization many years ago and have always had a strong interest. I started the match process back in May and was matched with my little sister in August.
As CVV alumni, you can relate when I say the experience has not been what I thought. I think I expected we would meet, become soul mates, and frolick through a field of sunflowers (we live near Kansas after all). Obviously that didn’t happen. We are as different as can be — which I should have expected given our difference in age and background — but we are constantly learning from each other. So despite the challenges and slow process to forming a deep relationship, the experience has been very rewarding.
Whether you have just finished your CVV experience or are several years out (or aren’t a member of the alumni at all!), there are ways to continue your spirit of service. So many ways that it makes a person like me overwhelmed. But if you focus in on your interests and skills, you can find a few opportunities that are meaningful to you.
Amazing organizations to spend your time with
This truly depends on where you live because each city has its own set of wonderful local organizations, including animal shelters, schools, museums, community gardens, national parks, and centers serving women, children, and the mentally ill, disabled, or abused. Nationally, here are just a few options you could explore:
Big Brothers Big Sisters (of course!)
Boys and Girls Club
Girls on the Run
A side note about staying in touch with the volunteer community
We all know leaving CVV can be lonely. We share so many values and experiences that we might feel isolated at times. But we aren’t the only ones who feel this way. My roommate was a Jesuit Volunteer, and discussions with her help me to continue to feel the spirit of my community. We have connected with current JV’s in Kansas City, as well as JVC alumni. I have also volunteered at an urban farm where members live in community and poverty, similarly to CVV. All these experiences help me reconnect with CVV values, and I’m sure these opportunities exist in your community.