I wouldn't classify myself as someone with vast experience when it comes to volunteering towards social causes (there are definitely a lot of role models I look up to!). As a young prfoessional who has gone on this journey, I have a lot of people asking me how to start making a difference so I decided to share some of my thoughts with ICAS and One Young World, here it goes:
My passion is helping others and I’ve realised that my most precious commodity is my time and skills as a Chartered Accountant.
Think about how you can use your skills to benefit others, perhaps by providing pro-bono services to a charitable organisation, supporting social enterprises or by volunteering abroad and at home.
I offer these suggestions on how to make a positive difference. They are all important and don’t come in any particular order.
1. Understand global issues
By taking time to consider some of the world’s most pressing issues it can give you a perspective on the challenges faced and how to use your skills to proactively tackle them. A good place to start is to understand the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals.
2. Identify what you are truly passionate about
Many people want to positively contribute to society but rarely take the time to understand what causes they are actually passionate about. By doing this is it will ensure you are engaged and it might provide you with the insight you need on how to go about it.
3. Explore all opportunities – global and local
When considering your role in making the world a better place, it’s good to understand the ‘macro’ topics and how to proactively engage, but also consider what is going on closer to home. For example, volunteering at soup kitchens, neighbourhood schemes, art galleries/academies or historical restoration initiatives.
4. Understand the skills you have to offer
Your time and skills are your most precious commodity so make sure you can leverage and utilise them effectively. Taking this approach means you can jump right into making a positive impact and allows you to utilise your skills in a wider context.
5. Focus Focus Focus!
Some people may feel the need to jump at every opportunity to volunteer or support others. However, making multiple commitments could spread your effort thinly and limit your effectiveness and productivity. I think it’s better to do a few things well rather than many poorly.
6. The journey
When considering volunteering specifically, many people think about going abroad, getting involved with large projects or taking formal positions from the get-go. My view is not to focus on the ‘end goal’ but rather the journey. Once you find a cause you are passionate about, start by reaching out to organisations and individuals, understand the dynamics and get involved incrementally. This helps you to understand how it affects your schedule and whether you enjoy it before making an extensive commitment. Pace yourself!
Supporting causes outside of your ‘day job’ takes serious commitment and determination. You will need it throughout - from starting to get involved with causes, through to actively leading projects.
Working towards social causes isn’t always glamorous. I’ve had many late evenings and weekends working on projects I’m passionate about and in those moments it can sometimes be hard to truly appreciate why you’re doing it, but you must persevere.
9. Volunteering as a family
Getting involved with charitable/social causes doesn’t need to be a solo endeavour and whilst you will meet some wonderful people along the way, why don’t you consider involving your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or children? Such experiences can often bring people together in a beautiful way.
10. Enjoy it!
Above all, enjoy the experience. Working towards making the world a better place is an extremely rewarding experience. Make sure you take time to reflect on your achievements. This allows you to appreciate what you have done and can also help to refocus and reenergise you.