Ingredients for Full-Time Volunteering

The Ndola Market

“Right place, right time.”

I set aside a career in finance to pursue volunteering full-time. I knew I had a window, a brief opportunity to capitalize on my deep-seated, but dormant need to impact the world. I was pretty sure I was blazing a trail (and had the commensurate measure of trepidation going into it). I didn’t know, however, that I was embarking on a journey that would change the course of my career and, by extension, my life.

The story of “why” deserves its own post. The experience is addressed in my bio on the “About” page. And I think the results will speak for themselves. What I’d like to discuss here to day is the prerequisites—the recipe, if you will—(and there were a lot—that I took in order to volunteer full time. What follows is a list of the ingredients of my experience.

  • A career break
  • A desire
  • A relationship
  • Intimate knowledge
  • In-demand skills
  • Institutional buy-in
  • Agreement to scope

Sufficient time to give back. For me, this took the form of a career break. For others, I would imagine it taking the form of pre- and post-MBA summers, career switches, sabbaticals, non-compete periods, or simply breaks for the sake of breaks.

The desire to give back. Plain and simple. Perhaps not uniquely, my volunteer CV begins with forced conscription in middle school, but expanded to include service during college—but stopped abruptly with my career. In a way, for years I ferreted away my altruism, sweeping the weekly tinge into an account where it could accrue out of reach. But what was never missing was my desire. If you have the need to give back, you know the feeling.

A relationship with a nonprofit. My relationship took the form of joining the junior board about a year earlier. The relationship grew in strength over time as I went from silent auction bidder to supporter to booster to ardent volunteer.

Intimate operational knowledge. Ardent volunteer, while not an official capacity, was enough to keep me involved in the operations of the organization, inclusive of its challenges. Shortly before I embarked on giving a quarter back, I attended a strategic visioning summit for key stakeholders—instant intimate purview into the future of the organization.

Skills in demand by the nonprofit. With my background in banking (a hefty portion of which was spent in conference rooms with decision makers), my skills fit well with developing and marketing a corporate investment program. Right time, right place.

Institutional buy-in on the project.. The experience relied heavily on buy-in from the CEO, other employees, and the Board. Without, resource allocation would have been a chore and/or impossible, rendering a volunteer experience frustrating and certainly not high-impact.

None of the above is enough on their own—and most, even together, aren’t enough to allow for a high-impact, intensive volunteer experience to be successful. For me, giving a quarter back was entirely “right place, right time.

Quarterback is here to change that.

Does giving a quarter back interest you? Think there’s an organization that can benefit from your expertise? Let me know in the comments! Also, sign up for updates on Quarterback’s website (www.qtrback.org)!

Be well. Tackle good.
-Brian

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2 comments

  1. […] is not an easy task. I’ve written about the ingredients for intensive volunteering […]

  2. […] I meet with a wide variety of nonprofits (some Quarterback partners, some not) and talk business. Topics range widely from what their funding mix looks like to how successfully they leverage […]

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