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Giving Back: Sorting through the Options

by Alison Quirk, executive vice president and Chief Human Resources and Citizenship Officer, State Street Corporation

More and more, “giving back” is becoming the focus of our conversations — both at work and at home. But with increasing options to choose from and limited time to devote to these efforts, how do you determine the best way to dedicate your resources? Today it is easier than ever to give back to your community. The first step is to ask yourself a few questions that will help you to narrow down your choices and ensure that your contributions have the maximum impact:

  • What causes mean the most to me?
  • What type of resources am I willing and able to give — time, money, supplies (food, clothing, etc.)?
  • Do I have unique skills that might benefit a certain group?
  • Does my employer support charitable efforts? Are there non-profit organizations that my employer partners with to facilitate involvement?

Evaluating Your Choices

Once you have identified your priorities and goals for your charitable work, there are several options for giving back:

1)    Donate: Charitable giving does not require a time commitment and you can still make a significant difference for the cause you choose to support. When you make a monetary donation, you are allowing the receiving organization to direct the funds to the area that is in most need at that time.

2)    Volunteer: By donating your time, you are creating an opportunity to connect with your community — with those benefiting from your service, and with other professionals involved with the non-profit organization and volunteer efforts. It is an effective means for developing your professional network.

In addition, if you have children, volunteering is a great way to spend quality time with them while instilling the value of community service. Volunteering provides a firsthand perspective of the impacts that your contributions are making.

3)    Serve on a Board: When you sit on the board of a non-profit organization, you can help influence the policies and processes that run that organization. Your unique experience and insight will contribute to the high-level decision making that will have the most benefit to the community served by the organization.

Additionally, serving on a board is the best way to connect your community service efforts with your professional career. Board participation demonstrates and strengthens your leadership capabilities. It also allows you to closely interact with professionals from other industries and companies while gaining valuable exposure for your employer.

I currently serve as a member of the Compensation Committee of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, leveraging the many years of experience that I have as a Human Resources professional.  I am also the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for Boston Ballet and recently helped the Ballet complete a strategic planning process. My involvement saved them the cost and time of having to either engage an external consultant or build the plan on their own.

4)    Organize an Event: The amount of influence you have on a cause important to you multiplies when you recruit the assistance of your colleagues, family, friends and neighbors. It can be a simple canned food drive or an elaborate fundraising event. Or, you could plan a fun team-building or neighborhood gathering to assemble care packages or other supplies for those in need. When you make your contribution a group effort, you are pooling valuable resources, bringing people in your community together and creating greater benefit for your cause.

5)    Partner with Your Employer: Today, many employers have significant corporate citizenship efforts, and they are often eager to support the causes that mean the most to their employees. Some companies allow their employees a certain amount of time from their work schedules to volunteer. At State Street, for example, we offer every full-time employee two paid volunteer days per year.

Have a conversation with the people that lead your employer’s giving efforts. There may be opportunities for your company to partner with the non-profit that you would like to support. This might be through matching gift programs or event sponsorships. Sometimes an entire department or group within a company will join together to help out a non-profit in need. These efforts help you to maximize your impact and build relationships with your co-workers.

Making a Decision

The options available for giving back to your community allow you to choose something that meets your personal requirements. Even if your time and resources are limited, there are ways to make a difference. Look for opportunities close to your office or home to maximize your time. Try different things to see what works with your goals and your schedule. No matter what you decide, your efforts will make a valuable difference to an important cause.

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