Dan Shapley the news editor from the The Daily Green.com, brings up a very interesting idea of making volunteerism synonymous with unemployment.

A volunteer-for-benefits program for unemployed workers would:
1. inject money into the economy;
2. invest directly in local communities;
3. support nonprofit organizations;
4. increase community service; and,
5. cost taxpayers little beyond what Congress has already committed to spend.

I think there is a sixth point that should be added.  Volunteering opens up a potential vast network of leads.  Volunteering is a great way to meet people and make connections in an industry or company where you want to work.  You can also get an idea if that industry is right for you.  In addition, there are skills you can learn that can help make you more valuable for that job opportunity that becomes available.  Don’t underestimate the power of networking through volunteerism.

See also: Volunteer, and help your career.

Sara Marston from the Washington Post reports on Montgomery County residents and how they spent their time volunteering for their community.  Thousands of residents volunteered with the Yes Montgomery Can! campaign in spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Day but  they also aim to sustain the spirit of service.

The countywide effort, inspired by President Obama’s call for a new spirit of service and sacrifice, kicked off the third weekend in January and will continue indefinitely. Activities included the county’s annual King Day projects as well as new service events, food drives, volunteer canvassing and other community activities.

Adams met with other county officials Friday to discuss the campaign’s future and said plans will be rolled out over the next few months.  “There will be bigger plans that will have a huge potential impact,” he said.

Their campaign has been successful in recruiting 500 volunteers, collecting donations and a food drive for the Manna Food Center, which was enough to feed more then 500 hungry families for a month.  This story is truly inspiring! Residents of Montgomery County have set a great example in contributing to a meaningful cause.  In addition, they are fulfilling Obama’s call for a new spirit of service not only for Martin Luther King Jr. Day but beyond.

Volunteers are rallying together to raise awareness for the number one killer of women – heart disease.

Go Red For Women celebrates the energy, passion and power we have as women to band together to wipe out heart disease and stroke.

The American Heart Association provides additional ideas and opportunities for volunteer involvement:

  • Go Red Party
  • Wear Red Day: Friday, 2/6
  • Paint the town Red
  • Community Outreach
  • Thank You Squad

Sometimes volunteering or service can be a simple act of getting involved and sharing the information you have. Do your part and share the facts!  Wear red this Friday, Feb. 6!

Kelley Holland’s New York Times piece on volunteers and professionals points out that

Volunteer work can help unemployed professionals keep their spirits up, make new contacts or even to try a new field.

“Three-quarters of people find jobs through being out there, engaged and meeting people,” said John A. Challenger.

However, if volunteering remains a high-commitment activity, this trend will continue: “More than a third of the 61.2 million who volunteered in 2006 didn’t donate any time the next year.” [source: Corporation for National and Community Service]

Most professionals want to volunteer, at every stage of our careers. What we need are more high-impact, low-commitment opportunities to serve.

As the New York Times article points out, the benefits of volunteering to professionals are substantial, and include:

  1. Learning new skills and improving existing skills.
  2. Making new contacts and deepening existing contacts.
  3. Keeping our minds sharp by working in a different environment than we’re used to.

The benefits of volunteering to people entering (or re-entering) our careers are also substantial, and include:

  1. Learning new skills and making new contacts.
  2. Keeping our spirits up while we look for jobs.
  3. Offering new items to include on our resumes, that embody our values and showcase our commitments and follow-through, and that we have a service-oriented attitude.

In both cases, people can contribute something meaningful to a cause we believe in, and also benefit our careers while doing so. Volunteers and careers belong together, like chocolate and peanut butter.

Everybody can serve.

January 9, 2009

Like MLK, the folks at ServiceNation and USA Service have genuinely inspired us.

Find us on Facebook!


Everybody can serve!

Joyce and I spent a lot of time talking this week about where the time for volunteering comes from in the lives of Americans. Joyce said to me,

Volunteering actually competes with going to the movies or playing a videogame or futzing around on Facebook for a couple of hours, but most volunteer applications are built on the assumption that volunteering competes with a full-time job.

I agree that for most Americans, volunteer time comes out of leisure time. When I get up on Saturday morning, I sometimes think to myself, “Do I want to see a movie?” If so, I check the listings, and find a movie I think I would enjoy.

Sometimes I go alone. Sometimes I go with my wife. Sometimes I go with friends. Sometimes I go with professional colleagues. Sometimes it’s a matinee, and sometimes it’s at night. Sometimes I don’t like the movie, but usually I enjoy it. Recently I’ve enjoyed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire. And once I leave the theater, I am happy and go back to my busy working life.

I agree with Joyce that volunteering should be the same way. Find something that interests you. Go do it alone, or with a loved one, or with friends, or with professional colleagues. Spend a few hours. And once you leave, be content and go back to your busy life.

Everybody has leisure time. So everybody can serve.

If we all do this — even just a few hours a year — our country will be a better place. The world will be a better place.

Pledge to serve, and you too can be great.

And then make 2009 a year in which you volunteer. Because when you volunteer, you serve. And when you serve, you can be great.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said,

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

In 2009, many people will serve. Colin Powell endorses a new service initiative USAService.org that will act as a Craigslist for service opportunities. I myself have pledged to serve at least 50 hours this year. And we at Renkoo hope you pledge to serve, too.


You got to serve somebody.

January 7, 2009

Om thinks Renkoo is rebooting, and we’ll be the first ones to admit that 36 million Booze Mail users on Facebook platform isn’t worth a whole lot, even as Facebook passes 150 million users. As Andy Grove put it, “You can’t build an empire out of this kind of concoction.”

But Om, we’re not bored at Renkoo. And we’re still building Facebook and MySpace applications. So what has changed?

We believe an important mission has found us. And we believe we’re just getting started.

We believe the first four years of Renkoo were our boot camp, where we learned all of the skills we can now employ to help people serve.

We believe that Monday, January 19 — MLK Day — is an opportunity for everyone to find an opportunity to serve.

We believe that Craig Newmark was onto something big when he explored the metaphor of a Craigslist for service.

We believe that a lot of other people also believe that 2009 is the year of service. This is going to be big — and millions of Americans are going to participate. And corporations too.

We believe, like Arianna Huffington, that Obama isn’t the only one being inaugurated on January 20th. We are all stakeholders.

We especially feel this way after noticing that today the Presidential Inauguration Committee launched USA Service dot org. This is one step closer to Obama’s service agenda becoming real. Next up: passing the bipartisan Serve America Act into law.

So Om, stop being so cynical, and Sign Service Nation’s Declaration of Service. America has a lot of work to do in 2009, and we all have an opportunity to serve. Om, we invite you to be part of the solution.

And Om, there’s more to life than a business model.

Goodness begins in small steps.

John F. Kennedy famously said on January 20, 1961,

And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

The world has changed a lot in the last 48 years, but his words are more relevant today.

We can all do something to make our country — and our world — a better place.

It’s 2009. The time for service is now. The place for service is here.

It is with that in mind that Renkoo is drafting its new mission. A mission of helping people help other people.

We are inspired by the words of Craig Newmark,

I feel that we’re entering a new time of civic engagement, where people can help others out in small or big ways. Let’s get going.

We are currently working on a brand new application that employs everything we’ve learned for the last four years — and enables a suite of voluntary actions that everyone can do in the United States and around the world.

Together we can make the world a better place, and our application has wonderful ramifications both for volunteers and for careers.

We are very excited about the launch of this new application very soon.

For now, we work around the clock to build it. There’s nothing more energizing than a worthy mission.