Smart Reasons To Work For Free

volunteering advance careersWhole regions are organized to reduce their energy consumption and improve their environment. Whole communities are engaged in healthy behaviors. Older adults live at home rather than in institutions because they have the help they need. Young children enter school ready to learn. Every immigrant is able to become integrated into the community and become economically successful, is able to speak English and is on the road to citizenship. -- The American Way of Change

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Sounds idyllic, no? Shirley Sagawa thinks it can happen, and she should know. Dubbed the "founding mother of the modern service movement," Sagawa has been a leader and adviser to several presidential administrations on national and community service. And in her new book, The American Way to Change, she lays out a blueprint for how the kind of nation described above can become a reality.

The book provides a rapid tour through the history of the American service movement and an overview of the current landscape. It's an invaluable reference tool for people who want to understand how they can serve, nonprofits that want to make smart use of volunteers and even for-profit entities that want to mobilize their workforce around a volunteer effort. Sagawa also includes a handy section on high-impact service programs that includes Civic Ventures and one of our earliest initiatives, Experience Corps.

Here's an abbreviated version of my conversation with Shirley Sagawa.


Q: Throughout the book, you write about the value of service for people going through life transitions. Can you talk specifically about the role service can play for those leaving a long-term career?

A: People leaving a long-term career are a little like adolescents, thinking, "What do I really want to be?" Sometimes they are not necessarily looking for monetary benefits of future work, but also what's going to be personally fulfilling. What's great about service is that you can set your own terms, from a few hours a week to almost full time. And you can break into a field that you might have been interested in. If you worked in an office your whole career, service can be a chance to get outside. So it's a combination of psychological factors, of moving on to the next thing, as well as the social or mental health need of staying connected to the world, to other people and continuing to learn. All of that exists in service work.


Q: Should people think about service or volunteering as a pathway to paid social purpose work?

A: Yes. It's a good strategy for people at all ages. Say you have wonderful experience as a person who's gone through many years of being in the work force. But perhaps you are missing skills in a field you're interested in. Taking on a serious volunteer opportunity can give you a chance to try something out, make contacts or build your resume in a way that you'd need to do when applying for a paid position.


Q: Lots of people get turned off to volunteering because they think it's just going to be stuffing envelopes. What do you say to them?

A: The volunteer world has changed so much. The days when the only roles for volunteers were licking envelopes are over. There is a huge need for skills-based volunteering, which you can see from organizations like the Taproot Foundation, which focus on bringing higher-level skills to organizations. A nonprofit should have a good description of the work volunteers will be doing. And you should be sure to ask what you'll be doing, whom you'll be reporting to, how you'll be evaluated and how you'll be able to share ideas if you have them.


Q: What is the biggest challenge in getting people over 50 involved in service or volunteering?

A: There are still a lot of stereotypes about volunteering on both sides and about older volunteers as well, so it's important to get examples out there. A lot of volunteers might be reluctant to step forward and a lot of nonprofits might not know where to go to recruit serious volunteers. We need to invest in systems that both recruit and match.


Q: How do you think the recession has affected volunteering and service?

A: It's certainly made full-time stipended positions tremendously oversubscribed. It's also increased informal volunteering, with people helping others, but not necessarily in a formal role. It's also put a lot of strain on organizations that meet basic human needs. So that's created demand for volunteers at the same time as organizations need financial resources. For a lot of organizations it's created an eye-opening experience about how to think differently about both how to get the work done and how to put to good use the great numbers who want to volunteer.


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Marci Alboher

Editor

One of the nation’s top experts on career issues and workplace trends, Marci Alboher offers career advice through her writing, speaking and media appearances. A former blogger and columnist for The New York Times, Alboher is vice president at Encore.org, a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose. The author of One Person/Multiple Careers: The Original Guide to the Slash/Career, Marci's next book, The Encore Career Handbook, will be published by Workman Publishing in January 2013.

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ajax@when.com

Oh yeah? Ask upper management how much a year they draw in from non-profit status.. Work free you volunteers so that I might send my kids through college without touching my personal wealth or semi annual bonuses.

June 04 2012 at 4:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
victor.laslow

God what a load of crap! This is nothing more than a long winded plug for this writers next book. And I'll bet she's looking forward to making money from it. Work for free my fat behind!

June 03 2012 at 11:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jalanandmruth

now they not only want us to work til we die, they want us to work for free too. y'all had this system more than a century ago, and we arent bringing it back

June 03 2012 at 10:31 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
ragtopdaz

Why work when you can just lay on your back and pump out tax payer funded kids.

Raising children isn’t cheap, especially when you have 14 of them. “Octomom” Nadya Suleman filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Monday, stating in a court filing that she has as much as $1 million in debt, according to the Associated Press.

The mother of 14 owes more than 20 times her net worth. Her creditors include her father, the local water utility, DirecTV and the Whittier Christian School, which some of her children attend. She also owes more than $30,000 in rent payment. The bankruptcy will allow a court-appointed trustee to liquidate her assets and pay off her creditors before she is discharged from most of her debts.

Suleman’s financial instability dates back to before the birth of her octuplets in 2009. Suleman was already supporting her previous six children through food stamps and Social Security disability payments when she chose to undergo in-vitro fertilization. The treatment resulted in her eight children — the world’s longest-living octuplets

June 03 2012 at 6:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ragtopdaz

Work for free, how about the ones who have never worked but get to live for free??

Zeituni Onyango, half sister of Obama's father,

"If I come as an immigrant, you have the obligation to make me a citizen," Onyango said
She stayed in a homeless shelter in the city for two years and was later assigned public housing, "all along living illegally and violating the law.

Describing her relationship with Obama as close.

Unemployed, Onyango receives nearly 700 dollars a month in disability benefits. This has not gone down well with taxpayers in the state who "are angry" that she has been living illegally in the country for almost 10 years and has been getting monthly public assistance while others who paid into the system are denied those same benefits.

"You can take that house. I can be on the streets with homeless people. I did not ask for it (public housing). They gave it to me. Ask your system. I did not create it or vote for it. Go and ask your system."

On why city taxpayers should be burdened with paying for her needs, Onyango said, "This country is owned by almighty God. You people who preach Jesus Christ, almighty God ...are here to help people, help the poor, help other countries and help women. That is what the United States is supposed to do. And you have to give me my right."

June 03 2012 at 5:02 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
ragtopdaz

Smart Reasons To Work For Free???
That's what the most of us have been doing for years to support all of the ones who don't. And the ones who come here illegally to get what is owed to them.

Illegal Immigration – The $113 Billion Dollar Drain on the American Taxpayer
Saturday, June 4th, 2011 at 10:43 pm

A study released by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) estimates that illegal immigration now costs federal and local taxpayers $113 billion a year. The report, The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on U.S. Taxpayers, is the most comprehensive analysis of how much the estimated 13 million illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children cost federal, state and local governments.

June 03 2012 at 4:59 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Wwhatever747

Non-Profit organzions have their own CEO, executives and boardmembers that demand big paychecks and vacations packages.

June 03 2012 at 4:57 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Wwhatever747

Don't work for free, the higher ups gain bonuses out of it. Don't be an idiot, sell something on ebay, Amazon, get busy. Don't give your time to such places. Be your own BOSS.

June 03 2012 at 4:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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