Why I'm Joining Chicago Cares' Serve-A-Thon 2015


Volunteering can be a challenge - our time is taken up by family, friends, work, and other activities. In fact, my own time has been busy with consulting work, other writing commitments, and keeping current with the state of social good in Chicago. So when I was invited to join Chicago Cares' Serve-a-Thon on June 27th, I was a bit hesitant...

But that hesitancy soon faded, and now I'm happy to announce that I will be participating in June. Plus, I will also be "covering" the event for the blog - taking photos, writing up a post, etc.

But why, Gordon, are you taking time out of your schedule for a single day?, you may be asking yourself. If you are seeking to gain personal time, why extend yourself this month?

The simple truth is this: in the past few years, I've been cutting down on my volunteer efforts - I needed more time for a job search, as well as more personal time. (There's a reason why I've been slightly more consistent in my blogging for Chicago Now than I have been in the past). Volunteering for one day - and given that I won't know where I'm volunteering until June 27th - is very exciting. Seeing a diverse group of people gather and work towards making an impact in the city of Chicago alwaysbrings a great thrill.

But more importantly, I personally believe that people do notunderstand the nature of volunteering. Many job seekers are often given the advice to volunteer at an organization. Somehow, the organization will determine the volunteer has some value and will later hire them.

(Sorry to disappoint, but it doesn't work that way. Rarely, if ever, will a nonprofit or some other organization hire a volunteer. What volunteering can do - and I am living proof - is allow a person to keep their professional skills sharp, making them much more employable. Chicago Cares' Serve-A-Thon is a great opportunity for only one day to sharpen those skills, even if it's more "soft" than hard skills)

Many believe that volunteering is a way of "giving back" to the community, serving as a great alternative to donations. While this is true, there's a greater need for collaboration and community - having attended two of many On the Table conversations sponsored by the Chicago Community Trust, I realized that the need for further collaboration and sharing of resources is critical for making an impact in Chicago.

But I also believe that in the social benefit field - whether you're a nonprofit, social venture, or other mission-driven organization - there's too much talk about collaboration and not enough practice. From the professional wading through their daily workload to the "connector" too busy to network with those seeking work, we're all challenged to find the time and the energy to welcome and build collaborations. Those collaborations start with a single pause: the casual conversation over coffee, the phone call, or even the chance to work together on a project.

Chicago Cares' Serve-A-Thon on June 27th provides a great opportunity for Chicago residents to make an impact on the greater community. You can track conversations about the event via the #imimpact hashtag, or visit Chicago Cares on the web

At the very least, I'll get a decent blog post out of it.

What are your thoughts about volunteering? Are you planning to join the Serve-A-Thon? Please leave your comments and questions below, or join the conversation on Facebook. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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