From offering a finance program for the local senior center to helping with school functions, more and more people have found ways to formally (and informally) volunteer over the past few years, thanks in part to the flexible pace of freelance and remote work.
The 60.7 million Americans who volunteered for official organizations in 2021 added $122.9 billion in value to the economy, says an Americorps report. Even better, 124.7 million said they helped their neighbors in an informal fashion.
“One of the unsung benefits of flexible work structures is giving people the time and energy to invest in their communities in a variety of ways,” says Briana Palma, a member of We Are Rosie’s fully remote core team and contributor to the 2023 Rosie Report study on the state of the marketing workforce. “Without it, opportunity and service hours shrink.”
There’s data to support that: 47% percent of marketers surveyed in this year’s Rosie Report found they had to cut back on hobbies and volunteer work when required to return to traditional office hours and commutes. So while companies may hope to gain productivity from converting back to a traditional workforce, employees and the communities they live in are left at a disadvantage.
To learn more about the positive impact of flexible work structures, we spoke to three marketers who’ve found the freedom to give back through freelance and/or remote work.
Sara Bristoll: flexibility makes volunteering more feasible
When Sara Bristoll, a 2023 Rosie Awards Greater Good Award nominee, switched from full-time work at a large credit union to freelancing, it was to be able to spend more time with her children, ages one and six. But she soon realized that it also gave her time to support her community by being an active member of a Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO).
“Being a freelancer creates a lot of flexibility that simply isn’t possible in most traditional office settings. Setting my own hours allows me to work later into the night (when I’m more productive anyways), and volunteer during the daytime to help with PTO marketing and events.
When I switched to freelancing several years ago, it was to be able to spend more time with my children, and through that, I have been able to donate my time to the PTO at my oldest’s school. PTOs often get a bad rap on screen and in books—it’s easy to pick on them as people doing busy work, but most are working hard to support the students and staff at their home schools.
Gateway Pointe Elementary PTO is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization for a Title 1 School in a state where school funding is already notoriously awful. Since joining last year, I have helped them streamline their communications and present it in a way to encourage more participation through parent volunteers and donations through branded newsletters and social media communications, flyers and more.”
Yeliza Centeio: sharing real-life experience matters
For many years, Yeliza Centeio financially supported 100 Women Strong, a Central Florida foundation that helps women and children. Still, she wanted to do more and with the flexibility her remote work allows, she joined the group’s membership team, volunteering at monthly breakfast meetings to recruit new members.
“The more members we have, the more money that goes to our grant, the more women and children we can help. Events like the Halloween candy drive for the hospital, the Thanksgiving food drive, and the upcoming Christmas celebration impact the lives of women and children in as many ways as we can.
Our bigger mission, however, is the grant money that we give out to one organization every year. This year, our mission was focused on the ‘Cliff Effect’ which hampers progress for women approaching the fiscal cliff [when a small increase in income results in a loss of public benefits]. This is a topic near and dear to my heart as I experienced it first hand growing up in poverty. Now that I’m in a financial position to help and have the flexibility to do so (thanks to We Are Rosie), I want to do everything that I can to support other women; to help them rise above poverty so that they can push their children forward and provide a better life for their kids. That ultimately helps keep kids off the streets and in school. I love that I get to play a role both financially and strategically; it makes me feel complete, as corny as that may sound.
One thing that sets me apart from the other members is that I have actually lived through the hardships that the women we’re striving to support are going through. I’m able to share a different perspective with the fellow members, which in turns makes our collective support stronger and ensures we’re putting programs in place that will have a true systemic impact versus basing it on what we read about or the research. Research and data are a great starting point but when paired with real life experiences, the outcome is a lot more effective.”
Kaeyln Banks: offering expertise impacts the greater good
Marketer Kaeyln Banks, the 2023 Rosie Awards Greater Good Award winner, shares her time and knowledge with a host of non-profit groups across the greater Washington D.C. area. And it all started with tiny shampoos.
“I’ve been volunteering since I was a kid and I really think that I got the itch from my mom. She used to travel and would collect all of those little toiletries from the hotels. And when she would come home, she would throw them in this bag and once that bag got full, she’d load up the car, load me up with her, and we would take those and other feminine products down to a women’s shelter. So from such a very young early age, I experienced something that felt so simple to me: the amazing impact that you have on someone else’s life.
And now as a young professional, I am still stretching that humanitarian arm by being a part of organizations like the American Marketing Association where I sit on the board of the Washington D.C. chapter. I also volunteer and offer my services with the Greater Washington Urban League, whose mission it is to specifically provide tools and resources to the underserved minority community. I support them in their entrepreneurship center where they offer free coaching and counseling to small businesses and entrepreneurs. I volunteer with The Tiger Lily Foundation, which supports women with breast cancer. As I continue to grow and expand I hope that I’m able to continue combining my love for volunteering and my love for marketing by supporting nonprofit organizations whose specific missions it is to support the underserved minority community.”