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22. October 2015

The Return on Investment of Giving Back

by Deborah Dellinger, Director, Not-For-Profit Operations, My Next Season

Why do we feel so good when we volunteer? What is the basis for our sense of fulfillment, accomplishment, and community? Study after study shows those who volunteer in meaningful ways exhibit less depression, live longer, feel a sense of purpose, maintain mental acuity, and express satisfaction with family relationships and friends. Our feelings are partially explained by research data: volunteering lowers mortality rates (Brown, et al, 2005).

Additionally, evolutionary theory supports volunteering. Those who give back benefit in terms of healthy aging. (Brown, et al, 2005). Our altruistic instinct is natural and serves us well. The Corporation for National and Community Service published a report espousing the positive return on investment (ROI) of volunteering. With 3.5 million baby boomers retiring this year, the report concludes people who engage in community service increase their functional ability and longevity. The investment in volunteering also extends to the health of our communities as improvements are realized through volunteer commitment and service.

When My Next Season was conceived, our founders made it a priority to be an engine for giving back. Our goal is to support transitioning executives as they find fulfilling and productive roles, many of which are in the not-for-profit world. As part of our ethos, we curate and facilitate Executive Advising engagements for our clients who discern not-for-profit work as part of their next season. We define this work as skills-based volunteerism, using the leadership, wisdom, domain specific knowledge, and life experiences of our clients to further the work of a charitable organization. We are delighted each time we connect a client with an Executive Advising opportunity that allows him or her to realize the ROI of giving back.

But what is the ROI for such a match? For our clients, it is impressive. Most executives channel their talents and energy entirely to their corporate responsibilities until the day they walk out the door for the final time. Their networks, relationships, community involvement, and self-esteem are intricately linked to their corporate identity. For these professionals, an Executive Advising project can ease the transition from an employer-defined identity to a new adventure using leadership skills, wisdom, expertise, and relationships. Giving back at any level and every level serves to fulfill this need and in doing so, promotes happiness, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose (Greenfield and Marks, 2004).

Some of our clients want to reconnect with family through volunteering – working together on a Habitat house, sorting food in a local food bank, or becoming involved in an organization to support local schools.

Others have started family foundations and have made the commitment to know and participate in family members’ charitable organizations of choice. In doing so, the family bonds are strengthened and the executive comes to know new community members and leaders, making friends with like interests. These relationships are vital to fulfillment and a renewed sense of purpose and belonging. A study from Harvard Health Publications suggests helping others inspires happiness; those who gave back are 16% more likely to report feelings of happiness.

Those who use their passion and experience to engage in Executive Advising find another benefit to be a stronger candidacy for corporate board placement. Following interests and sitting on a not-for-profit board of directors or consulting to such a board are both proven ways to increase one’s network and board experience, becoming a stronger candidate for placement on a corporate board of directors.

The ROI for the not-for-profits who recognize the value of Executive Advising is notable as well. It can mean a refocused public relations campaign for a major fundraiser, a well-articulated strategy to roll out a new service, a new board member with a unique sphere of influence, or a focused CEO who has experienced the support of a wise mentor. The not-for-profits invest time and resources to identify, quantify, and communicate needs to us and then provide the follow through for the mentorship, the project or the board placement. Moreover, the well-placed Executive Advisor paves the way for other executives to engage in their areas of expertise and passion with our partners and inspires others who witness the positive ROI.

At My Next Season, we are not only hoping that our clients live longer and happier lives, we seek to increase that probability by facilitating their engagement with the community and not-for-profits so they realize the life and health benefits of giving back. And for the not-for-profits with which we collaborate? They will be much stronger as a result of their engagement with our clients.

Why do we feel so good when we volunteer? Why is the ROI so strong? Because both our lives and our communities depend on it.

With over twenty years of experience leading and serving not-for-profit organizations internationally, Debbie Dellinger now oversees My Next Season’s philanthropic partnerships. Debbie connects experienced executives with vital not-for-profit causes as a part of the executive’s transition from a corporate career ordered around productivity to a next season anchored in purpose. 

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