Monthly Archives: October 2010

I Found the Marble in the Oatmeal!

On my second day at 9am, I got twenty emails from my boss.  Thankfully, she let me know it was going to happen so I wouldn’t freak out.  She referred to it as “drinking from the fire hose.”

The mass of information I’ve had to absorb in three days is mind boggling, and the realization that I didn’t quite understand what I was getting myself into was humbling.  There’s a silver lining, though.

The last two years when I started my service year, I hit the ground not really knowing anything about what I was doing, and I had no clue how to find out the information I needed.  It left me feeling so confused that I didn’t know whether to scratch my watch or wind my ass.  My first two days at the New Job didn’t have that, though.

Sure, there was the feeling of not really knowing what was going on and the realization that no amount of preparation before starting would have brought me up to where the people I work with are.  There was something else, though.  A quiet confidence that, even though I didn’t know what was going on, I knew where to find information and I knew the kinds of questions to ask.

I feel really lucky to have had the kind of experience over the past two years that has put me in this position.  I know that I wouldn’t be here without having served with Volunteer Maryland, and the farther I get away from my service there, the more I realize how good the experience was for my professional development.

So I found the marble and I get to drink from the fire hose, but this time the hose is full of awesome.

On the Move

The past week has been something else.  Two days on a Habitat site, a day of packing, and a day on the road.  Five hundred and twelve miles that included a trip through both time (a time zone was crossed!) and space to arrive in a new apartment in Atlanta to start a new job.

I’m looking forward to new adventures in a new city.

Changing the World with an Allen Wrench?

This might be the start of a trend; large companies and contest philanthropy.  You could say that it started with the Pepsi Refresh Project, but Ikea and Vodafone have jumped on board to fund individuals so they can volunteer in their communities.  Ikea’s Life Improvement Project and Vodafone’s World of Difference fund individuals to improve their lives and work with charities of their choice.

Ikea’s Life Improvement Project gives one person $100,000 to use how they see fit to “improve the lives of others.”  It doesn’t look like there are restrictions on the dollars, as long as you submit a budget with your entry.  You can use the dollars to fund yourself so you can volunteer full-time with an organization or you can donate the dollars to organizations of your choice.

Vodafone’s World of Difference program supports volunteering specifically.  Vodafone funds charities to support a full-time volunteer.  Instead of the individual getting funds, organizations get the funds to put the winner on payroll for two months.  The organization gets £2,500 to fund a salary for the winner, and £250 towards “administration expenses incurred as part of the programme.”

The £250 is interesting.  It looks like Vodafone is acknowledging that the volunteer isn’t free for the organization.  I think this is something a lot of people don’t realize.  Even volunteers who aren’t funded have management and material costs associated with their tasks.  I’m sure part of the money is going to go to setting up the volunteer’s payroll and insurance coverage but I doubt that it will use up the whole £250.  The contest rules don’t say anything about how the organization can use the funds outside of “administrative costs.”  Training and support are part of the administration of a volunteer program, right?

Is this the start of a bigger movement where companies help individuals to become more active in their communities?  If so it seems like a good idea.  More people working to make their communities better is a good thing.  Sure, the companies get some free advertising, but does it really change how people think about the company?  If Nike or Shell or BP or Walmart start a similar program, is it really going to change what people think about them as a company?  Are more people going to shop at Ikea or use Vodafone because of the contest?