On Friday, I attended the Women + Girls Research Alliance Summit. I am honored to be on the advisory council for the Alliance, and, every two years, after conducting empirical research around important issues impacting women and girls in Charlotte, the Alliance hosts a Summit to present the findings and to galvanize energy in the community around these issues. The Summit brings together a diverse community of interested individuals to provoke insight, advocacy, and activism. The day of conversation inspired me in many different ways including ideas for the next few blog posts.
Today’s blog post comes from a very specific question asked during the panel I moderated, Finding Your People. A woman who is relatively new to Charlotte asked about how she could find a way to serve as a board member on a non-profit as she had really enjoyed that work in her last community but hadn’t found a way to have that experience yet in Charlotte. As someone who feels that part of the way that I live my purpose is by deliberately engaging in my community, as someone who has loved being a part of non-profit boards, and as someone who now leads a non-profit board, this question resonated with me.
Are you looking to play an active role in a community issue of importance to you?
When non-profits talk about needing help, they often talk about three Ts: time, talent, and treasure. If you’ve got some time and talent you want to share, there are no shortage of non-profits who would welcome your help. Here are some quick thoughts about how to engage more deeply (quick because, truth be told, I conceived a book on how to become a dynamic activist/advocate a few years ago but tabled the idea for baby raising. Knowing the ideas I had for that book, I won’t play like this question can be thoroughly answered in just a few words. But hopefully these words get you started if that is something you are looking to do):
What is calling you? What issue is most on your mind right now? What haunts you? What issue do you want to learn more about or are inclined to speak passionately about when someone brings it up? When you are looking to engage in a community issue, focus in on what REALLY lights you up. There are a million things that need doing but if we focus in on what most compels us then we operate with a whole ‘nother level of energy towards it and that usually leads to the most innovative of solutions (and allows us to do energy-building and giving work rather than soul/energy draining work).
Survey the scene. There are probably several different options you have to get involved in what catches your eye so you don’t necessarily have to start your own initiative, duplicating efforts and dividing dollars and energy. If you are new to an area, ask people what they are involved in, what they know about in the areas that interest you or check out organizations like the Hands On Network and Volunteer Match to find experiences that are a fit for you. Also, attend local summits, roundtables and events where you can meet local leaders, learn about the issues in the community, etc.
Engage. Once you’ve found an issue area and an organization that interests you, get involved. If you want to do more or something different from the typical volunteer experience, ask to meet with an organization leader. In that conversation, share that you would love to teach a financial literacy workshop to high school seniors, make a video to help the nonprofit tell its story, create a volunteer database or whatever concrete skill you have to offer. And tell them what more you are willing to do. As the board chair for a non-profit, I’ve had people ask to be more involved and it’s the best moment ever. Don’t just wait to be asked; offer away!
And if all this talk of sharing your times and talents have you motivated, I hope you’ll consider making a donation to Circle de Luz, the non-profit I chair whose mission is to radically empower young Latinas by supporting their transformation through extensive mentoring, holistic programming and scholarship funds for further education. Circle de Luz does its work by selecting a small cohort group of Latinas in seventh grade whom we then follow until high school graduation. During the six years of the program, we offer the girls holistic programming guided by a developmental model with twelve categories and thoughtful group and individual mentoring. Our developmental model requires that the girls have exposure to programs that support their academic readiness, career awareness, college preparations, personal growth, health and wellbeing, the arts, and more. In addition, we guarantee each girl a minimum of $5,000 scholarship when she graduates from high school and pursues further education.
While our first class graduates this June, our work isn’t done. We have three other classes still in our program and are adding a new group of seventh graders this fall. Soon, we will be recruiting mijas to support that new class, but, for right now, we are working to raise money for our fall programming through our annual Run Big Dream Big experience—where our girls train for and run a 5k alongside volunteers/supporters. My goal is to raise $1400 with this year’s run, enough to cover one full year of programming for one of our four classes. Can you help these young women have an incredible year filled with summer reading, college tours, workshops on financial literacy, photography skills, writing, personal planning, internet safety and decorum, teen health, nutrition, dating, career awareness and more? Every dollar has an impact!