Last month, our client the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation announced their vision for the future of philanthropy — one that involves not just capital but time and talent, too. We helped them package that vision into a digital report, full of hard data and personal insights from experts throughout the social impact world. Working on it reminded me how important and easy it can be to give back.
“We all have the ability to contribute to society, whether it’s volunteering in church or doing something through your marketing job at some company,” the report quoted Erin Mote, one of the foundation’s collaborators, a co-founder of Brooklyn LAB and executive director of InnovateEDU. “You don’t have to have a million dollars to make an impact.”
I’d have to agree. I don’t have a million dollars. But I can have an impact. Through my “marketing job at some company,” but also outside of it.
Since moving to Seattle, in 2015, I’ve volunteered my web and design skills with the local nonprofit Urban ArtWorks. They pair contemporary artists with local court-involved youth (teens who are engaged with the juvenile justice system for committing an illegal offense or a delinquent act) to create public works of art together. The organization’s goal is to empower young people through professional opportunities in the arts. The youth who work with Urban ArtWorks are paid employees who serve as mural painting assistants, helping commissioned artists create large-scale works of public art.
I’ve been commissioned to paint murals with ArtWorks as a professional artist, and I enjoy the process of covering big walls with big ideas. However, I also recognized that my “marketing job” skills might be even more helpful. Web development, graphic design, newsletter production and photo editing aren’t the type of activities you always associate with volunteering, but they’re the types of soft skills nonprofits are constantly in need of.
My work with the organization has been exciting and rewarding. Helping good people with cool opportunities is obviously very satisfying. But it turns out that donating my professional skills in a nonprofit setting is also circling back and improving what I do in my profession.
For example, my relationships with clients have improved. I’m more patient, empathetic and understanding, like I try to be when I’m volunteering and responding to a newsletter emergency or a long back-and-forth about the web layout. I’ve grown more adaptable and responsive — organizations with big goals and small budgets have to be — and it’s totally paying off in the workplace.
This month, Urban ArtWorks posted a volunteer feature about my work on their blog. I’m thrilled to contribute to this aspect of Seattle’s public arts scene — not as a financial donor but as a giver of my time and passion. I’m benefiting in lots of ways. And when you feel like your skills are also helping other people and communities, the “work” you donate is its own reward.