Volunteerism Drives Purpose, Progress

/ Christine Andrukonis

One of the hard lessons the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us is that we are all connected, and that our personal attitudes and actions can have life-changing consequences, not just for ourselves, but for others. Over the past year, we’ve witnessed awe-inspiring acts of kindness from people around the world — unselfish individuals who’ve come to the aid of family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and even total strangers. This week, as we celebrate National Volunteer Week across the United States and Canada, we are reminded of the magic that can happen when people unite behind a common purpose. This year’s theme, The Value of One, The Power of Many, speaks to what we can accomplish when we join together on behalf of others.

Volunteerism enriches and elevates human behavior (and organizations!) in three important ways:

  1. Volunteerism builds empathy: Nothing establishes common ground better than walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Sharing another person’s experience expands our understanding, insight and perspective to the challenges they face, and drives home how critical it is to meet these challenges.
  2. Empathy inspires action: In 2016, Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki shared the results of his study on how acts of kindness can foster similar behavior in others. His research showed that kindness can beget kindness. So when we volunteer, we can inspire others to act in the service of others and generate a virtuous circle of paying it forward.
  3. Action drives progress: Based on Zaki’s findings, we see how volunteerism can have an exponential impact in generating empathy and action within communities, throughout the business world and across our country. Through personal acts of volunteerism, we can spark a movement that could lead to lasting change.

At Notion Consulting, we have had the privilege partnering with Lazarus Rising, a New York-based nonprofit whose mission is to empower people experiencing homelessness by helping them develop the skills to secure meaningful employment. Lazarus Rising harnesses the power of 300 volunteers and a handful of homeless shelters (including The Bowery Mission), universities and corporations, to build empathy, inspire action and drive progress.

According to Matt Sobel, President and Co-Founder at Lazarus Rising, “2020 was a challenging year, but with the power of our many volunteers and partners, we successfully transformed our services.  We launched a web-based video chat platform, which enabled us to become a fully digital volunteer-led organization. And in doing so, we connected skilled volunteers with people living in homeless shelters to deliver personalized vocational services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This undertaking was equally gratifying to those of us at Notion, especially Jennifer Gianni and Seth Cotter, both of whom supported the non-profit’s digital transition. According to Jennifer, “it has been really inspiring to witness the commitment and dedication of the Lazarus Rising team, and experience their passion and energy for bringing volunteers together in service of those living in homeless shelters.”

“It’s been incredibly rewarding,” adds Seth, “to partner with Lazarus Rising and the Bowery Mission for such an important cause, especially during the COVID pandemic. I am proud that we at Notion are part of a social justice movement that is growing nationally and globally to address homelessness, confront systemic racism, and amplify the voices of those who are disenfranchised and underrepresented. This opportunity to help others begin or re-enter their careers at a vulnerable time has not only given many of us at Notion a strong sense of purpose, but it has also equipped our team to be better at helping business leaders drive meaningful change in their respective organizations.”

During National Volunteer Week and beyond, please join us as we take steps small and large, to help others and do our part to build empathy, inspire action, and drive progress, here and around the world.