The Connect Blog

Connect is a place we share stories with, ask questions of, and learn from each other. The Connect Blog highlights your stories, ideas, and insights. Do you have something you’d like to contribute? Apply here or contact Community Manager Quinn. 

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A while ago, I switched careers after more than two decades as a community newspaper editor. About a year into my new job, I agreed to participate in a mentoring program that connected me with a person in the legal department who had been at the organization for many years. I thought it would be a valuable exercise as I had a lot to learn, especially considering that I was responsible for communication pieces that explained our organization to members and the public. I also knew I had plenty of room to grow professionally. During our first meeting, after pleasantries, I brought up a difficult situation I was in. I was finding it impossible to convince ...
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Silencing Our Inner Critic

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There’s a voice in my head, and I can’t shut it up. Many of you probably have one, too. The voice is telling me that the sentence I just wrote sucks. It’s telling me that this piece I am writing is going to flop. It’s the thing that threatens to give me an upset stomach a lot of the time when I get a new story assignment. What if I don’t know what to do? What if I fail? What if this is the one that finally proves I am a fake and a fraud? It’s what makes it entirely possible, though incredibly contradictory, to look at a piece I wrote and at different times think it is the most brilliant, clever thing I have every written, and that it is complete and ...
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The hallmark of a good mentor is being a good listener. Honestly, you could truthfully say that about one of a great many things. Boss, spouse/partner, parent, work colleague, even friend. But for mentors, it’s particularly important. And not only to listen as in -- being silent and attentive to what the other person is saying – but to listen empathetically . I got to admit, I suck at this. I can’t even pronounce the word 80% of the time. I used to think I was a decent listener. And in some respects, I may be. But the empathetic thing trips me up a lot. I can be as empathetic as a rock. I have a logical, task-driven mind (and a great urge to ...
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With the world paying long overdue attention to the problems created by a lack of diversity in decision making, and the long-term harm done to individuals and communities across the world because of it, nonprofit organizations (NPOs) have been at the forefront of pushing for and enabling change. But what about leadership at the very top- are NPOs making enough of a push to diversify their boards? It’s worth taking a moment to talk about what diversity doesn’t mean, and to explain some useful terms you can use to talk about the issue. It isn’t tokenism, which is the inclusion of someone only for appearances sake. It’s not about marginalizing any person ...
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The sudden shift to socially distant life resulted in the nonprofit sector losing access to a veritable army of volunteers. NPOs were left with too few hands available to meet their objectives, as well as shortfalls in their ability to manage, coordinate and support their programs effectively. Worse, the COVID-19 pandemic also caused significant disruptions to NPO fundraising efforts, forcing reductions in staffing levels for many. Simultaneously, social distancing cost an army of volunteers their means of doing community service. For many who frequently volunteer, giving back is a core part of life. It's a way to help others, but also often a way to help oneself. ...
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I just read that Nellie Bly's birthday is in May. I pondered if she was the inspiration for May to become the mental health awareness month , but it seems to just be an interesting coincidence. I always viewed her as a trooper and a big hero - such an important historical figure to remember. With mental health stigma and lack of awareness still being present in our society, her role and work became even more timeless and relevant. Nellie Bly went undercover by pretending to be mentally ill and get admitted to a mental institution in an effort to report on the treatment of the patients within the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island. She became a ...
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If you’re a young professional, the odds are you have more things you’d like to spend your time on than you have time available. You’ve been making good strides in your career, but you’d like to find ways to make a jump forward. Trying to unlock doors to new opportunities, you’re pouring your energy into developing your skills, and learning new ones. You’re searching out ways to boost your resume, and you’re taking every chance you can to scoop up valuable network opportunities. That doesn’t leave much time for a social life though. And now you’ve got no space in your life at all for volunteering and supporting causes in your community… If that’s the situation ...
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Volunteering is rewarding. It connects you with people and provides a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Studies have shown that doing volunteer work is good for your mental health too. It helps with stress, depression, and anxiety, even boosting overall reported happiness. As everyone who’s offered up some of their time to help out at a local charity or nonprofit can tell you, it makes you feel good to help others, and serve your community. So then, why aren’t we spending more time volunteering? According to Deloitte’s 2017 Volunteerism Survey, 69% of people say they aren’t volunteering as much as they’d like to. Apart from Covid restrictions, one reason ...
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2020 was a challenging year for nonprofits. With NPOs struggling to adapt their fundraising models to the changing circumstances, the pandemic forced significant cuts to their workforces. According to research by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, an estimated 930,000 jobs were lost in the US nonprofit sector last year. While staff numbers were down however, many organizations simultaneously experienced a surge in demand. Across the board, American NPOs have risen to the challenge. Embracing digital transformation initiatives and implementing innovative solutions, they’ve found new ways to reach out to volunteers and communities, ...
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Beth Keck is the Volkswagen Visiting Chair in Sustainability, Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University. A member of the Rotary Club of Bentonville, Arkansas, she pursues her passion for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as a volunteer in her community and in Rotary. We caught up with Beth recently to ask her how she applies her professional expertise in DEI as a skills-based volunteer and what her advice would be for others. How did you develop an interest in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)? As a part of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative at Walmart, I was responsible for rolling out an initiative to expand training ...
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Building Up Your Professional Portfolio by Volunteering Everyone who volunteers knows the warm, purposeful feeling we get after helping to make our communities a better place. But did you know volunteerism can also have a significant positive impact on your career growth and development? Read on to find out how doing good might help you build up a successful career. Multiple academic studies from around the world have concluded that young professionals who involve themselves in volunteering can reach their professional growth goals faster than peers who don’t help out, sometimes in unexpected ways. For example, UK researchers ...
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Environmental Volunteering: Going Green and Doing Good By now, we all know about the irreversible effects man-made climate change is causing to our planet. Rising sea levels and a warming atmosphere are altering the environment in alarming ways, with the biggest changes yet to come. The ‘new normal’ will affect everyone, no matter how distant it may seem from our comfortable lives right now. With all these looming challenges to humanity, it’s easy to feel powerless. But there are many nonprofit organizations (NPOs) working right now to help mitigate- and even reverse -the worst effects of climate change. The best part is that you can help in any number ...
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My cheeks hurt from smiling, which was weird because I wore a mask all day. It’s not as if anyone saw my smile, but I couldn’t help it. It was a great day. I volunteered at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic in my town last week. I worked the registration desk, checking people in for their appointments. It’s a fun assignment because you interact with so many people. There was the young man who told me he just woke up — it was 1:00p.m.! There were the teenagers born the year I graduated high school who didn’t laugh at my lame attempts at jokes. And there was a young man with autism who, as his mom filled out the paperwork, sang me a song and showed me how he ...
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The past year has been hard for everyone. Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) have adapted to significant changes to fundraising and operations, while at the same time, many have been faced with surging demand for their services. But NPOs’ most crucial lifeline has remained strong throughout- their volunteers. The way we think about volunteer opportunities has changed, but the dedication and impact remain the same. In this article, we’ll look at some of the ways volunteers are recognized for their extraordinary contributions (including National Volunteer Month 2021!) and explore how people can engage in effective volunteer work in the midst of a pandemic. ...
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Maybe you are like me, and have been bummed out lately that volunteer activities you used to take part in – like delivering food to the underserved, helping at a soup kitchen, or participating in any number of group service activities with others – have become more difficult to do safely during the pandemic. I set out recently to write a blog post about how to volunteer during the pandemic with the ulterior motive of breaking out of my own volunteer inertia. I wanted something tangible, not writing a check or talking to people virtually (Zoom fatigue!) So I started with Google and typed in “ways to volunteer during the pandemic.” ...
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Feel the Burn(out)

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It takes a lot to get me to read a non-fiction book. Because even after being finished with grad school for nearly 10 years, my brain reverts to the following train of thought as soon as I pick one up: Reading for facts > must retain information > must achieve > learning overload > so sleepy > night night However, when I started hearing about Anne Helen Petersen’s “Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation” everywhere I turned, I knew I needed to do more than just add it to by Goodreads queue and let it sit idly by for the next x number of years. It was even more intriguing when I saw these chapter titles: Do What You ...
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The line of cars stretched and curved ahead of us like a snake for more than 300 yards before disappearing into the large Expo Hall of the Lake County Fairgrounds in Illinois. My wife and I had arrived early for our 11:45 a.m. appointment to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. We were blessed to be on the 1a list due to our daughter’s special needs and our status as constant caregivers for her. We anticipated a line, of course. But we were both struck by the efficiency at which things moved, and the volunteer army that made it happen . The sheer number of volunteers who must be deployed at vaccination sites like this around the country is a little mind ...
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Resilience is the process of adapting in the face of adversity. When we experience a traumatic or stressful event, our brains activate a number of pathways to protect us. These biological processes help keep us safe. It’s in the recovery from these events that we grow and change and become stronger. Many of us are living this reality right now in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is, there are ways to grow our capacity for resiliency. And we can use this time by working together to grow and foster resilience. When we collectively care for each other, we help create pathways to grow and foster resilience. When we scale these practices ...
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I learned the value of skills-based volunteering from two very different experiences I had over a period of many years. More than three decades ago, I volunteered at an overnight homeless shelter after attending a speech by a national homeless advocate. I had no skill working with the homeless but felt convicted about how much I had and how little they had. Once a month, I spent the night at the shelter with one other volunteer and a paid supervisor, who left after dinner was dished out at the facility’s soup kitchen. Eventually, my interest waned as new causes caught my eye and I grew tired of my monthly “all-nighter.” Years later, I joined a local ...
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Volunteering can be extremely beneficial, especially during the pandemic, helping reduce anxiety, stress, and developing a sense of community. It's also a great way to expand your network. — GOOD DESIGN™ Illustration / Laura Mareli, Creative Director Suppose you've ever served food at a soup kitchen or lent a helping hand at an animal rescue shelter. In that case, you're likely familiar with the mental and emotional boost that comes from contributing to a noble cause. Even though most believe the primary purpose of volunteering is to help people in need, there's no denying that the joy you bring others trickles down to you as well. That's ...
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