Community Service and volunteering is a bit of a double-edged sword.
On one hand, there is no shortage of opportunities to contribute your time and energy to worthy projects.
And on the other hand, it can be challenging to find the right opportunity for you.
If youʻre going to be committing your personal resources to a project, itʻs a good idea to make sure both the organization you work with, and the work youʻre doing, mesh with your passions, interests and skill sets.
Questions to Consider with Community Service
Here are a few things to ask yourself before committing to a specific path of community service:
- How much time do they require? Does it match with your availability and schedule?
- What skills can you (and want to) contribute to the project? Does it match with their needs?
- Does the organizationʻs purpose match your interests and passions?
- How is the organization structured? Is their management something you can work with?
- What is the track record of the organization? How long have they been around and what sort of impact are they making?
I realize asking questions like this might seem like being a bit “aloof”. After all, volunteering is supposed to be about selflessly giving to the community, right?
But this is about more than just giving your time. Itʻs about using your time to be as effective as possible and make the biggest impact you can.
If you can make a greater positive impact with Organization A than you can with Organization B, then isnʻt that better? And if that organization also matches your passions, availability and skill sets, then you have a greater chance to be with them for the long haul.
And on the other side, if you were an organization wouldnʻt you want to have people who have a true passion for what youʻre doing? The relationship goes in both directions.
If your passion is gun control laws, then you wouldnʻt want to volunteer for the NRA. Or if your organization is about protecting coral reefs, you probably wouldnʻt want people involved who hate going into the ocean and donʻt care about sea life.
So, with those considerations in mind, let me share my own plan for finding organizations and opportunities to contribute to the local community here in Hawaiʻi.
Finding local community organizations in Hawaiʻi
So, if you donʻt already know, my current Walkabout journey in Hawaiʻi includes an element of community service. And, as I mentioned in my first Podcast episode, the challenge of selecting an avenue of service is that I do not yet know what the options are.
In order to answer those questions from earlier, I need to figure out what organizations might be a good fit. That is a process that takes time. During the next half year (or so) I will be researching opportunities. I will also start providing service that will position me to connect with those organizations.
The thing is, there are actually a ton of non-profit and NGOs here in Hawaiʻi that promote good, worthy causes. Iʻve actually worked with one or two groups already. But from what I can tell, that was just the tip of the iceberg.
One thing Iʻm planning to do is talk to a friend who is a lawyer who works with a lot of non-profits and sets up their legal structures. I figure she probably knows a lot about the options. If Iʻm lucky, maybe I can get her on the Podcast too. 🙂
My specific community service considerations
So, what are my personal considerations? Here are a few of the things that Iʻm keeping in mind when thinking about where to serve:
Local Hawaiian Community Service
My preference and priority is to work with organizations that have been started locally, through grassroots initiatives, and are focused on the indigenous populations of Hawaiʻi.
Why? Well, there are a few reasons.
First, Hawaiʻi has had a long history of groups or people coming in and trying to tell people here how to do things. Yes, this is pretty arrogant, condescending and very “colonial”. But it also means that those organizations started outside of Hawaiʻi donʻt necessarily have Hawaiiʻs best interests in mind. (Some do … some donʻt.)
I certainly donʻt know Hawaiʻi that well (yet?). As an outsider, it is a better use of my resources to assist those who understand what is needed here. Trying to figure that out on my own would be a waste of time and energy.
As a general rule, organizations that originated here in Hawaiʻi, are usually good for Hawaiʻi. Many of them are sustainability-focused and have a strong push towards harmony with the ʻaina (land), the ocean and the local resources. They also tend to promote the Hawaiian language, culture, and traditions.
I also like things that have been started at the grassroots level. It means they are borne of a need that people here in Hawaiʻi have identified as necessary for the promotion of their culture or the preservation of their environment.
Plus, the idea of starting something that isnʻt supported and organized by the local Hawaiian community gives me visions of missionaries and industrialists coming in and forcing their perspective on Hawaiian people. Yuck.
Focused on the Indigenous Population and Cultural Preservation
Iʻm interested in organizations that promote and serve the needs of the indigenous Hawaiian people. Or, at the very least, they are focused on the preservation of Hawaiian culture and/or language.
First, because Hawaiians been really given a raw deal over the past 150 to 200 years (more on that some other day).
And second, because if I want to truly understand Hawaiian culture, language, and society, then it behooves me to be a participant in those initiatives that are vital to those causes.
My Plan to Find the Right Community Service Opportunities
I have a general idea of how I will identify the right path to take with my community service. There are a few parts to it. Here the basic overview:
Determine the Skills I Can Offer
The first step is to identify those skills that I can contribute to an organization. Without a doubt, the primary skill I have is related to website design, mobile app design, or digital marketing. Thatʻs what I do for a living, after all.
And, if I had my preference, I really like the idea of creating mobile apps to help organizations. In my limited experience, I see that as being a pretty popular need.
Of course, the problem is that Iʻm not actually a mobile app developer or programmer. Well, not yet, at least. But Iʻm actually working on that, which Iʻll talk about in a moment.
Create a portfolio of services
I have a lot of experience with graphic design, copywriting, social media, online marketing, branding and other things that a lot of organizations have a need for. But how would they know I can do those things if I donʻt show them?
To get those skills noticed Iʻm going to be working on a “portfolio” of services that I can offer to local organizations. I have a few projects of my own in the pipeline that Iʻm going to use to this effect. It might be time to revamp the old resume too.
I already mentioned this one, but I will be doing quite a bit of research to find organizations that match my skills and interests. Here are a few components of that:
- When I come across organizations, I will attend any gatherings or meetups that they are putting on. This will help me get a feel for the people in charge and what their needs are. Networking FTW!
- I have already started checking out a local start-up incubator focused on Hawaii and Hawaiian cultural values called Purple Prize. They originated from a non-profit teaching coding to kids, called Purple Maiʻa. Either one of these would potentially be a good fit. Iʻm looking forward to seeing how things develop.
- As I mentioned, I have a friend who has experience with local NGOʻs and non-profits, so I will be reaching out to her for information and ideas.
- Of course, Iʻll also let my “fingers do the walking” (does anyone remember that reference?) and check the vast online Google-verse to find out what I can.
If you know of any good options, chime in with a comment below! 🙂
Build Stages of Service
Iʻm going to be working towards my future service with the “ideal” organization by warming up my “community service muscles” on a few projects.
Each project is meant to build up both my skill set, my portfolio and my outreach to potential organizations.
An Example of Skill Development
Iʻm reminded of the example of Robert Kiyosaki, the author of the uber-popular Rich Dad, Poor Dad book series. (Some people have criticisms of his materials and practices, but he has definitely had an impact on a lot of entrepreneurs out there.)
But what Iʻm talking about is his early life.
He identified skills or experiences that he was deficient in, and made a specific effort to work at jobs and in positions that provided him with those exact things.
He wasnʻt good at leadership skills, so he enrolled in the Merchant Marines and then became a flight instructor.
His sales skills were weak, so he went to work for Xerox, which had a great sales training program.
I like this idea of filling up the pukas (holes) of your skill sets. Identify the weakness and make yourself stronger.
Creating a Habit of Service
The other thing that my plan does is start small and create a “habit” of service. Doing something at a high level from the get-go is challenging. Doing something small and simple to start and then building on it over time is much easier.
I currently have a project that Iʻm working on. After that I have another one that is a bit more challenging. And then I have an idea for one after that which is even a bit more challenging. The next several months, while working on those projects, Iʻll also be seeking out that special organization. I hope to contribute most of the next 2 to 3 years to them.
My Upcoming Service Projects
So, here is a list of the projects I currently have on my list, and my planned deadline to finish them.
Hawaiʻi Bahaʻi Website: February 20, 2019
This website is a service project for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahaʻiʻs of Hawaiʻi (In the Bahaʻi Faith, Hawaiʻi is still recognized as a nation, so they have their own national administrative body). Iʻve been working on this project (slowly) for a while. Because of various other obligations, I havenʻt had the time to put into it that it deserves. The next month or two is going to be my final push to get it out the door and launched.
Bahaʻi Pule Mobile App: June 2019
Last semester I took a mobile app design class at UH West Oahu. My app idea was for one that helps users study Hawaiian language translations of Bahaʻiʻ prayers.
Hereʻs the thing though: I donʻt know how to actually make an app. Design an app? Sure. Build an app? Not so much.
This project will have a major learning curve. But that is sort of exciting too. I have a lot of the basics of the app figured out (thanks to the class) so I just need to build those skills. Iʻll talk about how that is going to happen in another post.
Place Name Pronunciation Guide: September 2019
I have this project on my radar just in case Iʻm not able to connect with a local organization by June. The idea is to create an app (or website) that will teach visitors to Hawaiʻi the pronunciation of Hawaiian place names. When you hear people butcher the names here enough times it starts to hurt even non-Hawaiian ears like mine. I thought this would be an interesting and useful app, and also help promote the Hawaiian language. It also works well as a secondary app after the Bahaʻi Pule app.
The Purple Prize
As I mentioned above, I have applied to be a part of the local startup incubator, Purple Prize. It starts in the first part of 2019, and if I get in, my involvement may change some of these plans. But I will move forward with the assumption that I wonʻt get in. If I do I can pivot based on what project I might be a part of.
I didnʻt apply for the incubator with a specific project in mind. My hat is in the ring mainly as a resource of experience and skills. It is my hope that I can help someone who may have a great idea but not the skills to implement it.
Things I Want to Keep in Mind
So, just as a summary, I wanted to list out the things Iʻm trying to keep in mind as I go forward and look for that local, grassroots organization.
- Time availability: What are my available hours per week?
- Skills: Are my skills even needed by this organization?
- Organization Goals: Do the goals of the organization align with my own ideals, values, and goals?
- Outcomes: What is the preferred outcome of my volunteering with the organization? What will they need me to accomplish?
- Resources: What are my personal resources that I can bring to the table? Does it help the organization?
My Community Service Plan in a Nutshell
This plan is much different than my ʻUkulele and Hawaiian Language plans. The main difference is that I donʻt know what will happen or how I will be involved with community service just a few months from now.
But that is okay.
The nature of finding the right local, grassroots initiative is naturally a slower process. Unlike playing music or learning a language, this is an action that has an impact and affects the lives of many people. I donʻt take that lightly and want to make sure I give it the due respect it deserves.
Stay Tuned for Updates!
If you would like to keep up with my progress on these community service projects then be sure to sign up for my newsletter down below. And, of course, Iʻll be posting some updates to my vlog on my YouTube channel and stick up some stuff on Instagram too. Best of all, I will be reflecting on things at the Walk the Pla.net podcast, so subscribe to the feed on your favorite podcast player to hear all about it.
This is pretty exciting and I canʻt wait to lend a hand to help out one of the awesome local non-profit organizations here in Hawaiʻi. With all the options available here it is going to be a challenge to pick just one.
So … maybe I will pick two? Lol. (Just kidding … I think.)
Until next time … see you on the road!