Erin McHugh had been working as a book seller during the day and author at night. Her jammed packed work schedule left her little time for volunteering. Feeling unfulfilled, she decided to try an approach she could squeeze into her routine — one small good deed every day for a year.
Her deeds ranged from taking a senior out for ice cream to donating books to the local library. As she started blogging about her mission, others piped in. “I realized the small stuff is what people could relate to. Asking someone to take a whole day off and do something in the community is too hard for some people.” McHugh turned her personal mission into a book, One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better, which she will speak about at the 29th Miami Book Fair International on Saturday.
Much like McHugh, American workers are finding ways to participate in volunteering, even as their work hours increase. Among men and women in professional and managerial positions, a whopping 38 percent of men and 14 percent of women worked 50 hours or more per week in 2011. At the same time, the volunteer rate rose by 0.5percentage point to 26.8 percent for the year, with more than 64 million people volunteering at least once, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For some, a large volunteer commitment can lead to productivity loss. Not long ago, I spoke with an accounting firm partner whose term as president of a nonprofit organization had just ended. She was eager to return her full attention to her job and confessed her practice had suffered from the voluminous hours she put into her volunteer role.
There are ways to help you fit charity/volunteer work into your work-life balance.
• Multi-task. Volunteer work poses an opportunity for multi-tasking. It can double as a way to raise your business profile, squeeze some exercise into your agenda, or meet a romantic partner.
Detra Shaw-Wilder, a litigation partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, focuses her volunteer involvement in efforts to increase minority lawyers in the legal profession. “All my dollars, time and energy go into that,” she says. At the same time she is donating time to bar associations, she also is building a reputation and connections in the legal community. “The way to balance is to find things that have a return for you personally and professionally,” she says.
Meanwhile, Adrianna Truby, a teacher at Miami’s Palmer Trinity School, takes a different approach, participating in the growing trend toward combining exercise with volunteer work. An avid runner, Truby has become a captain for Team in Training, a program sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society-South Florida chapter. Truby spends her Saturdays training volunteers to run marathons and personally runs to raise money for the organization. “Lots of people aren’t motivated on their own. It’s easier for them to join a group, get healthy and raise money for charity.”
Some volunteers get involved in philanthropy to meet a like-minded romantic partner. The Lopezes volunteer to bond as husband and wife. Together, Marile and Jorge Luis have chaired three fundraising galas for organizations they have a passion for such as the Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation. Jorge Luis, who heads a law firm, and his wife, Marile, who works as chief financial officer for the firm, have five children and spend their leisure time giving back. “We focus the volunteer work we do on children’s causes,” Marile says. “We make it a collaborative effort.”