The best way for defining your volunteering is to create Mission Statement of your values.
Claire Costello is the National Foundation Executive for Bank of America Merrill Lynch Philanthropic Management, and explained why having a mission statement for you values and causes is so important. “Figuring out what you are passionate about, helps you give the way you live,” she said. “By developing a personal credo for yourself it affects everything; the way you raise your kids, the friends you make, the business deals you conduct, and how you give your money away.”
The process begins with an exploration of your values. What guides the decisions you make in life, and what values drive you? Examples of common values include loyalty, independence, honesty, excellence, diversity, community, spirituality, respect, and so on. Grab a piece of paper and jot down three or four personal values that really resonate with you.
Next, think about the issues that catch your attention, stir your passion or call you to action. Is it conservation and the environment, healthcare, education, science & technology, domestic violence or civic participation? Again, take that sheet of paper and identify a couple of issues that have deep meaning for you.
Finally, the values and causes you have identified are combined into a formative mission statement of your philanthropy — stating what you stand for, who you want to impact, and how to accomplish it. Think this is easy? It is actually a challenging and profound experience. Try this with your partner, group of close friends, or as a family exercise.
Once you begin this process, there is a point of no return. Most people are reactive in their volunteering (eg. volunteering to go to Haiti after the earthquake), and it has little meaning. If you give based on what you care about, there is much greater personal fulfillment. Aligning values and issues creates a powerful incentive to make a difference, and keep making a difference. It also establishes a graceful way to bow out of requests for causes that are not on the list.
For example, if I identified “family and community” as my top values, with “youth education” as top causes, donating to a startup biotech would not be nearly as fulfilling as volunteering to help primary students learn English with The Hong Kong Council of Early Childhood Education and Services , making dresses out of pillowcases for Hope 4 Women International’s “Dress a Girl Around the World” campaign or volunteer for a Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation program as the best investments of my time and money.
Remember: Volunteering is invaluable — be a coach, mentor, or helping hand to the causes that represent your deepest commitments. A consistent allotment of time helps the organization to know they can count on you, and often becomes a lovely blossom in the daily grind.
In this blog, I mentioned three organizations as examples. Two are Hong Kong based, and one global. To find out more about them and their programs, click on the following links:
The Hong Kong Council of Early Childhood Education and Services – http://hkceces.org/
Hope 4 Women International – http://dressagirlaroundtheworld.webs.com/
Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation – http://www.hkyaf.com/home/current/eng/