Last week, I wrote about our volunteer-based product experience team working furiously on our MVP. Some of them are putting in as much as 20 hours a week! We are grateful for any donation of time, expertise, money and products. When I founded curaJOY and started ideating a digital program, friends questioned why I’d give up the clear potential profit and operate as a nonprofit. I don’t have a short answer or proof that nonprofit tech is the “best” way for curaJOY to grow.
If you only have a week to live, what would you care about? At the core of life are your values, relationships, and experiences. I have been a lifelong volunteer. My success or income doesn’t preclude me from being a foster parent to over 20 feral kittens, pregnant cats, and 5 misbehaving, screaming, biting abandoned parrots. It was a lot of stinky, dirty and at times, physically dangerous work (one parrot almost bit my lip off). I choose to volunteer because I WANT TO! It makes me happier when I create the world I want to see with my time and my action. Abandoned and poorly conditioned animals need a place to rehabilitate and get adopted. So I show up, potty train and socialize them. I never once thought about asking those nonprofits for payment. In fact, I buy my fosters extra toys and fresh food to enhance their quality of life. I show up and do the work because of all the times I wished somebody had been there for me.
It is a luxury to have the freedom to contribute towards a cause you champion. After all, that’s the reason why most people slave away at their jobs–to live securely, to be happy and to afford options in life.
curaJOY gets a lot of volunteers who are looking to:
- Keep up-to-date skillsets while they take time off from full-time work to be more hands-on in their family
- Transition to another field and need to be given a chance to prove their potential
- Retirees or semi-retirees who still got the fire to change the world.
Every time we get a volunteer, I cheer up a bit more. It’s an affirmation that our mission to improve families’ emotional wellness is worth their time, and adds confidence to the decision that what we do shouldn’t be led by profits or investors.
Time is the most precious, limited resource you have. Whatever you decide to do, be 100% present and give your best. Nothing you do for yourself is ever lost. It becomes who you are, so choose intentionally.
P.S. I’ve also volunteered in soup kitchens and on trips to orphanages in Mexico, but those band-aid approaches of just providing the next meal frustrate me immensely. Some causes demand root-cause systemic change. Take the behavioral health crisis as an example, the rate of depression rose by more than 70% in teenagers, parents’ mental health has also declined sharply and there is a LONG waiting list for behavioral health services. This is curaJOY’s area of work. We could set up free counseling or mentoring to help those in need or even a peer counseling program. That would improve access to behavioral healthcare, and I don’t deny the value of organizations providing those services. There’s a place for everyone. But a big factor contributing to this crisis IS the shortage of behavioral health providers. You can’t remedy a problem with something else that also has problems and is contributing to the original problem. Big problems need systemic shifts and solutions that address the root causes.