How To Give Back While Working Full-Time
Not everybody can work in development or social services. Like hi, the world needs you in your own zone of genius! The person that invented the rolling office chair probably wasn't setting out to revolutionise our lives for the better, but lo and behold...
It’s normal to feel stifled by a career that you don’t think is humanitarian enough to reflect who you really are. I hear it a lot. So to address that, here are some of my ideas for giving back while working a full-time job:
Think your job is soulless? Hack the capitalist system and schedule a regular donation for 5-10% of your annual income that is automatically deducted, don’t give yourself the chance to repurpose that money. This money is really needed by groups like animal rescue organisations, my preference is Lefty's Place. An alternative to the % rule, you could dedicate the earnings of 1-2 hours of work per week to the charity. Maybe for you that looks like $18 a week to spare that you might not miss too much, but by the end of the year you've donated almost $1000. No matter the amount you can justify, you know you'd be working hard to support the causes you believe in. And that's kickass.
Sign-up for a volunteer role, even if you can only do a few hours a month handing out hot meals for a homeless organisation. You can easily give up one social commitment every few weeks to work a volunteer shift. Check Seek for listings, or search the cause you’re interested in online and email some orgs about opportunities. Often, they might even need the help of your specific field. Beyond obvious tasks like food aid - Skills in areas like admin, HR & bookkeeping can really go a long way. Always consider your own skills first, because my administration assistant experience shaped most of my volunteer roles throughout my late teens/early 20s. Additionally, organisations like St Vincent de Paul may have opportunities for you to participate in programs such as tutoring for refugee kids that my have an absence of parental support for homework due to low English literacy levels (another volunteering stint of mine).
Save for an annual short-term volunteer trip, like to refugee camps that take short-term vols (eg. Calais, France). If you're skilled, there's a lot of need for people in health professions, education, finance or management. Just research any organisation thoroughly, check for a child protection policy, ask past volunteers about their experience if you can, and thoroughly consider if you actually have the relevant skills to be useful in that role, or if you're accidentally finding yourself placed in a voluntourism role that may not be as beneficial to the community as you'd hoped. A good way to field volunteer opportunities like this is to avoid companies that want you to pay a questionable fee (but paying your own way should be expected) or want you to care for kids despite not having childcare or education experience yourself. Respectable organisations will have a safety buffer between kids in their care and strangers. You want your money to impact the community, not the for-profit company that places you there.
Sign-up for online volunteering through sites like UN Volunteering and EthicalJobs which range from a few hours of work to part-time jobs that you can do from home. Again, emailing charities you love can deliver opportunities like this. Sometimes they need small jobs done like typing scanned copies of petitions or sign-up forms into spreadsheets (something I did myself in uni by emailing a local environmental organisation and asking). Other times, the role can be something larger like language translation or writing documents for the organisation.
Apply to be on the board of a non-profit if you have the experience they want. It could be paid, or it could mean giving up your time for free. NGOs can use a variety of expertise in their governing body. Alternatively, if you are a professional or have a tertiary qualification in your field, you could try reaching out to organisations and letting them know you'd be available to volunteer as an advisor for them. Small organisations may not have the budgets to employ staff for jobs like social media, branding or policy development and other tasks that can broaden their capacity and extend the reach of the work they do.
Find the NGOs in your area like a local Amnesty International chapter and sign-up for newsletters, buy a membership, attend events, share their articles, buy their merch, sign petitions, donate to drives and watch for advertised board or volunteer roles with little to no upfront commitment.
Have you taken a look at whether your money is working with your values or against them? Analysing the bank you use and the super fund you invest into could be pretty revealing. I'm not going to give high level financial advice about what to do with your life savings, but better banks include Credit Union Australia and Bank Australia. Better super funds include Australian Ethical Super and Cruelty Free Super. You can check things out for yourself at resources like Responsible Investment Association Australasia and choose what is appropriate for you.
Appreciate your incredible luck to be living in a liberal democracy and be an engaged, active citizen that monitors politics and is aware of party policies. Not just on the day of election, but year-round so when the election comes you can be confident that your vote is utilitarian and when you attend the voting booth you are doing a service to better the country for your peers, and not worsen it. Democracies only work if the voter base is paying attention. It's not just a privilege, it's an important responsibility and one of the most valuable ways you can give back no matter your career.
Continue to be a conscious consumer limiting animal products, fast fashion and other industries that are environmentally destructive and exploitative of minorities. To be honest, this one matters most and is most accessible, because everyone has wiggle room to make positive choices regardless of their location, income or physical or intellectual ability. Remembering, it's what we don't support that matters more than what we do support. What we leave on the shelf matters. No amount of volunteering will reverse the disproportionate impact on the world's poor we create through mindless consumerism, and not to be too over dramatic about it, but making fair trade vegan choices is a direct way to better the lives of every living being on Earth.
So, still convinced you have to quit your job, go back to uni and completely retrain to make a difference in the world? I completely disagree. Use your socioeconomic status, use your civil rights, use your access to technology, your literacy and your education to advocate for a better world, a more equitable economy, and improved opportunities for those a little less lucky.