Sunday, 21 September 2008

Of charity and giving...

BigCajunMan at Canadian Personal Finance Blog posed a good question in today's entry: "What is giving? What is charity to you?"

To me, charity is as much about the gift of time as it is about the gift of dollars. Dollars are the easy part... write a cheque, sign up for auto deduction during the United Way drive or hand twenty bucks to the kids who come to the door looking for sponsorship for their team. The gift of time can be more difficult because it involves getting out there, actually putting hands and heart into action in ways that may be outside our current realm of experience.

Being between jobs is a great time to do some volunteer work, any volunteer work. If working with the Shepherds of Good Hope or The Mission or at one of the women's shelters isn’t within your comfort zone, how about checking out Habitat for Humanity, or one of the local theatre groups, or your local church or service club, or the local animal shelter, or at one of the museums, or Meals on Wheels. There are a bazillion ways to give back to the community, whether for a few hours one time only or for a few hours a week on and ongoing basis. Volunteer Ottawa ( and Charity Village ( are two of a number of places to look for a volunteer gig. It feels great to get involved.

I’ve discovered that my project management skills (which are part of, but not the main focus of my for-pay career) are even more valuable when volunteering in the arts and for non-profits than they are when working for pay in high-tech!!! When we work in high-tech, we take certain organizational and office skills necessary for that job for granted... many groups outside of high tech could definitely benefit from these skills. It has certainly been eye-opening for me to discover that something as simple (to me) as a powerpoint presentation can make a big positive impact on the communication channels within a group that doesn't use a lot of powerpoint.

Also, it feels great to come home after a day of volunteering with the satisfaction that you accomplished something for someone else.

And you never know what contacts you will make… you will be exposed to a different cross section of the population than you are currently accustomed to. This is good for the soul, great for the networking, and an interesting topic of discussion at future job interviews when asked how you spent your time “in between”. Sometimes, helping others results in helping yourself, too!

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