`Where did that spark go? The one that made you hop out of bed and get to the office before everyone else, put in a full day hardly looking at the clock, and go home feeling like you made a difference in the world?
Who killed it? Your unappreciative boss? Your whiny co-workers? Your nit picky clients who hired you but act like they’re the experts? Or maybe you have a sneaking suspicion that your work doesn’t really matter….
Okay, maybe the work you do all day doesn’t matter-matter. But you do, your skills and experience does. Right now there are dozens of opportunities waiting for you that are meaningful, important and can change the world — volunteer opportunities for trained and experienced professionals just like you.
The pay…? Not great. Close to zero or, really, zero itself. But what is it worth to you to feel needed again? What would you give or do to get that spark back?
Your knowledge, experience and skills could change the lives for young mothers, homeless families, people without healthcare, or people fighting eviction. And if you volunteer your services to a nonprofit, you could create their first real website, give them a new brand or help them balance their books. I guarantee the people you help with me infinitely more grateful than your other clients and co-workers could ever be.
Volunteer opportunities for Austin professionals abound, friends. and I encourage you to try them. You will blow their minds with what you can do, trust me. If you want to get that spark back — and get a boost to the ego, too, while you’re at it — inquire about one of these volunteer opportunities.
Your skills are in high demand at local nonprofits, most of which don’t have a full-time communications professional on staff. Smaller agencies are especially welcome to serve, and we encourage you to simple reach out to a nonprofit or cause you’d like to support and offer your help.
That being said, Austin Pro Bono, a nonprofit itself, matches nonprofits with volunteer professionals. Visit the site to create a profile, browse the projects and apply. Projects include website development, graphic design, public relations, photography, accounting, social media and more.
In most situations, you don’t need to be licensed in Texas and you’re covered under the organization’s insurance. You’re also encouraged to help in areas outside of your expertise. You’ll be surprised to see how far basic legal knowledge can go.
Sign up to help intake of clients at the regular evening legal-advice clinics, held by Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas and Legal Aid. You’ll help low-income Central Texans with a wide variety of legal problems, generally civil law and family law, and offer free legal advice. Spanish-language speakers and interpreters are always needed.
With Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, you’ll provide legal representation to low-income families. VLS is happy to find a case that fits your time constraints or comfort level. They especially need Spanish-speaking volunteers, volunteers who can help with clients in the outlying areas of Austin and who can be a mentor to other lawyers and paralegals and help with their cases.
Family Eldercare: Help elderly and disabled clients with legal filings and court work so that Family Eldercare can establish and maintain guardianships. Attorneys can also assist clients with short-term money management assistance.
Texas Advocacy Project (formerly Women’s Advocacy Project): Provides general assistance through a hotline and legal consultations for clients going through domestic violence and assault cases. There’s an ongoing need for pro bono attorneys who can offer free, half-hour consultations over the phone or in person to victims of domestic violence. Commit to as little as 30 minutes per month, two hours a week or more.
Capital Area AIDS Legal Project: Provides general civil legal assistance on issues like life planning, insurance, discrimination, family law, probate and more to low-income individuals with AIDS and HIV. CAALP is a project of AIDS Services of Austin.
Texas C-Bar: Join the Pro Bono Panel to work on individual, discrete transactional legal matters for nonprofits and micro-enterprises. Or the Community Counsel Partnership, which pairs a corporate legal department or law firm with an individual nonprofit to serve as that organization’s general counsel for a year.
LAWYERS AND ACCOUNTANTS
Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts (TALA): Provide legal and accounting services to arts nonprofits and artists from all creative disciplines, including visual artists, musicians, actors, dancers, film makers and writers.
No training is necessary to be a tax volunteer through United Way for Greater Austin or Foundation Communities, but accountants, CPAs and even bookkeepers can help support other volunteers for this very rewarding volunteer experience. In the past, volunteers have put more than $30 million a year into the hands of hardworking families.
MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS and PHARMACISTS
Austin’s Volunteer Healthcare Clinic needs specialists, nurses, technicians, phlebotomists, dietitians and more to provide primary and acute care for low-income and uninsured residents of Travis County. Volunteers are the heart and soul of this place, and most volunteer opportunities are available after 5 pm.
Medical records and office specialists are invited to help at People’s Community Clinic. While anyone familiar with computers can be trained to volunteer, your experience can get you up to speed much faster and you can help support other staff and volunteers on duty.
Opportunities in science/technology/math abound throughout the year and put you in the classroom or in a setting with kids and young people, inspiring them about the field of engineering. Look especially to Central Texas Discover Engineering, which is on mission to encourage school children to pursue technology careers by introducing role models from the local engineering community and sending them into classrooms throughout the school year.
Professional should also consider joining a nonprofit board or simply reaching out to the nonprofit or cause you care about to offer your services. Don’t expect them to jump through hoops to accommodate your offer, but if you make a personal connection with a staff member or board, they’ll make a bigger effort to help you help them. And they’ll love you for it.