The year 2020 will be remembered for its trials and tribulations, how people and communities had to dig deep to solve problems and navigate uncertainty.
So it is not surprising that as we find ourselves at the end of this challenging year, thoughts of New Year’s resolutions weigh heavy on our minds. And while the new year always brings with it the shiny optimism of a second chance, this year, particularly, the appeal of a clean slate looms large. The idea of a fresh start when the calendar flips feels like the panacea we all need to keep moving forward.
Many people set personal resolutions to be healthier, thinner, smarter, or better in some way, inspired by the potential that a new year brings. But in light of this past year’s hardships, I challenge you to focus your 2021 resolutions, not only on yourself but also on doing more good in the world. As 2020 draws to a close, and we breathe a collective sigh of relief, find a way to create some community-focused resolutions, and take the time to make them stick.
Most of us have experience with personal resolutions gone astray and know how quickly the enthusiasm and optimism of sparkly new intentions can diminish. Community-focused resolutions can also fall by the wayside if you don’t take the time to think about what matters and how you fit into the community’s web of giving-back opportunities.
It’s easy to get swept up in the latest giving craze, especially in times of crisis, so take time at the end of this year-like-no-other to consider what’s important to you. When you gain clarity about your piece of the do-good puzzle by determining what you care about and what you have to give, your community-impact resolutions have the best chance for success.
In a year that exacerbated many existing community issues and highlighted the importance of civic and community engagement, there are many reasons to consider your beliefs, motivations, and gifts to help ensure that success.
It narrows your focus. Communities have many unmet needs, which became very apparent during the past year. Options for volunteering, board service, and community engagement seem endless, so without forethought or planning, it may be hard to know where to begin. Taking the time to identify what you are passionate about and what you can contribute makes it easier to sift through the giving-back possibilities and narrow the options to a more manageable list of prospects.
It helps you find things that fit. If you don’t take the time to think about what you have to offer, it can be hard to see how your gifts can make a difference. When you consider your strengths and areas of interest, it becomes easier to find give-back opportunities that match your skills, abilities, and resources. It’s easier to contribute to the greater good when you know yourself better and have a clearer picture of what you bring to the table. And in 2021, we will need everyone using their gifts where they have the most impact.
It reveals new opportunities. Thinking about your time, talent, and treasure broadens your options to give back. For example, suppose you recognize that you love working with numbers and are good at it. In that case, you could reach out to organizations that need assistance with bookkeeping, treasurer duties, or fundraising, rather than just volunteering for the first thing that comes along and hoping it works out. When you take the time to think through what you care about, what motivates you, and how you can contribute, you can match your outreach efforts to the issues.
It makes community work more engaging and sustainable. When give-back opportunities do not align or are outside areas that interest and motivate you, it may be harder to maintain these commitments because they are not inspiring or may even feel too much “like work.” But when you know how you fit in and do things you feel drawn to, you see the connection between your gifts and the community’s needs, making your service more rewarding and impactful for both you and the community. Connecting your community engagement efforts to your values and skill set makes it more likely your resolutions will be successful and carry on.
To fully embrace the opportunity to make a difference in 2021, take the time to define why you care and how you want to get involved. Fully embrace the resolution season and make a promise to do something different in the new year, something that takes the chaos and heartache of 2020 and uses it as motivation to do more good.
Tammy and Brandon Day own Daycos Inc., which provides revenue management for transportation service providers across the country. Her work focuses on Daycos4Good, which uses the business as a force for good. She is a member of the Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education and is active in the Connie Fund, Stand for Schools, and Women’s Network of Nebraska. For more Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns, click here.