The Godfather

 

My uncle (Godfather) my aunt (Godmother) holding yours truly at my Baptism circa March 1983.

In the Catholic religion, when you are baptized,  you are assigned Godparent(s). The traditional role of the Godparent(s) is/are to  make the profession of Faith in the child’s name and accept the responsibility of instructing the child in the faith, especially if the parents failed in this duty.

I lost my Godfather (Uncle) on January 5th, 207. In his role, his spiritual teachings were usually inspired by John Cleese and the entire Monty Python catalogue, Fleetwood Mac, Robin Williams, Dunkin Donuts coffee, the New York Giants, and automobile repair. As a kid, I was a punk to my uncle, but as I grew up, he was always around to help whenever I was in need. From installing a stereo system into my 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass  to sitting around the table after 9/11 and trying to keep me from losing my shit – my uncle was there. I will miss him dearly and take solace in knowing that, while he left us way too soon, he was very loving, kind, and had a wickedly awesome sense of humor.

 

 

 

“Love empowers us to live fully and die well. Death becomes, then, not an end to life but a part of living.”

bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions

 

Part of the whole

Student Affairs featuring Higher Education or Higher Education featuring Student Affairs?

I’ve had so many thoughts about my profession, I guess you could say I’m sitting in Chickering’s 6th vector: developing purpose and I’ve been stuck here for awhile.

When I initially researched graduate school programs, I really didn’t know about the various differences of programs’ curriculums and , at the time, didn’t care if they were researched based or practitioner based. My list was based on region, knowing that I didn’t want to go too far away from my family  and I ended up attending George Washington University for my Master’s in Higher Education Administration with a concentration in Student Affairs Administration. I took advantage of anything I could and learned as much as I could, not knowing where in the world of the higher ed world I would find myself in after I graduated. Sure enough – my trajectory has been that of a “traditional” residence life professional thus far, but I am hoping to eventually reach beyond this area and into the greater world of higher education administration. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet.

As I sit here, stuck in the 6th vector,  I know that I am a part of a whole. I work in residence life, which is a functional area of the larger student affairs, which is a larger part of the whole of the university system. But, as I tweeted out yesterday, are we as professionals/educators/administrators/practitioners able to think in the broader scope of higher education administration? Do we even recognize that we are part of the whole? Do we see ourselves evolving to think broader in our roles? Depending on the level at which you find yourself (entry-mid-senior)- are you even given the opportunity to critically think about these things?

I would encourage all of my colleagues who identify as being part of the student affairs world to think broadly about the work that we do and how we are part of the whole. I acknowledge that many of us are fighting the good fight to “prove” ourselves in the academe and I think it starts with the contributions that we make every day on our campuses and to the greater good of the profession. If opportunity exists on your campus, I think sitting on a university-wide committee is a great place to broaden your view. Some food for thought from my former supervisor, Ron Campbell who said ” In order to think outside the box, you must understand what goes on inside the box first”.

 

PS. thank you to all the twitter folks who contributed to the conversation, it was great to see such engaging conversation.

 

 

 

One.

Sitting around the bar last night – chatting with some colleagues and friends, we started to talk about what we were excited to do when we get back to our respective homes post conference.  Things ranged from implementing things we’ve learned from said conference, enjoying sleeping in their own bed, and (in my opinion the best) eating a home cooked meal.  But for the most part, the number one thing people were most excited to get back to someone they love, whether it be someone they are married to or in a serious relationship with – it was by far the most popular answer. But in my world – that is the one thing I dread most about going home – it’s the fact that I go home to nobody.

Now, I understand that this could somewhat be easily changed if I just put myself out there, but it’s not that easy given the location of my current residence, but it’s not like  I haven’t tried, I’ve just come up empty. While my last relationship was 3 or so years ago – I’ve gone on some of the world’s most terrible dates – it’s kind of the worst.  It’s symptomatic of the fact that I refuse to settle in an investment of a relationship where I am not willing to give and get 100%.

But I struggle: returning home from a week(ish) full of learning and filling my heart and soul – my extrovert is a glutton on the buffet line of information and relationship building – to basically an introvert’s paradise – a quiet apartment in a town where people think driving 10 minutes from one side of the town is a hardship.

In the town where I live, I fill the void of being alone (there’s a difference from being lonely) with activities such as running, reading, and going out to explore the great outdoors or spending time with those who I don’t have to basically buy their love in the form of coffee. I chat and text with those across the country who are willing to invest their time being silly and having some sort of meaningful conversation – even if it is about a TV show that I’ve never seen.

The fact of the matter is: it sometimes sucks being alone while most of your friends are in relationships. BUT, I am very fortunate enough to have people out there who I care about and would take a bullet for. I am lucky to have those folks who are willing to
Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 9.56.49 AMtake time out of their day to chat when I have an issue or need a reality check – those are my people. And even though I will be on my way back to the bustling metropolis of Bloomington IN in less than 24 hours where nobody will be physically there to welcome me back – just knowing that my people have my back is major key.

Tips from the Candidate Coaching Table

Last week I attended “The Placement Exchange”(TPE), the annual career fair for those seeking jobs in student affairs. While I had gone through TPE back in 2008 and 2011 as a candidate, this year I was part of my institution’s employer squad: we were looking for some awesome candidates to come work with us in residential life. A few weeks prior to going to TPE, I received an email asking for volunteers for on-site candidate coaching, where we would assist job-seekers in assist in individualized job search coaching.  I signed up and worked about 4 hours worth of shifts and from that here are a few nuggets of wisdom I bestowed onto some candidates:

 

Shake it off  (yes, you read that correctly: shake it out — not off)

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The first candidate who came to me was nervous about interviewing for their dream job. I could tell from the moment they sat down and spoke to me that while excited, they were very much caught up on not messing up for a chance at their dream job in their dream location. After they went through what help they needed, I told them to stand up and shake their arm. This person looked at me kind of strangely, and I explained

You have so much pent up nervousness and excitement in your blood right now — you need to stand up and shake it out.

Still not believing me, I stood up and proceeded to shake my arm, hand, and leg to demonstrate. I have no shame, and neither should they. But guess what — it works. After that, we were able to have a great conversation about the position they wanted and it helped them to focus on the job, rather than be nervous.

 

I can read your resume, tell me about you.

If I had a dollar for every candidate I interviewed for jobs and spoke with during candidate coaching that regurgitated their resume when I asked for their elevator pitch or the “tell me about you” question, I would retire from my job indefinitely.  When candidates came to me in the coaching area, I introduced myself, got to know them a little better, and asked them to give me their elevator pitch. They did. They all recited their resumes. I stopped most of them mid-way through their pitches and told them to tell me something about themselves, after all, I did ask them to tell me about themselves. For those of you who struggle with this prompt, I found some really great resources to help folks in answering that question: Here , here, and here .  You want your answer to line up with that of with the job to which you are applying. You want to be concise, but show who you are.  Be Yourself – talking about yourself should be easy because you know how awesome you are. Don’t be afraid to talk about YOU.

 

Woo and be Woo’d

This actually has nothing to do with StrengthsQuest – but rather a first date. I had a candidate come speak with me about some poor advice he had gotten from another candidate coach earlier that day. They said that the coach had led them to believe that their materials were a perfect match for the job they wanted. They said they interviewed and then when they checked their mailbox, got a thanks, but no thanks message. This candidate was crushed and couldn’t fathom why they didn’t move forward in the employer’s process.  They tried to blame the candidate coach for poor advice, but then I suggested that we go over what they said to the employer. I pretended to be the employer and asked “tell me about yourself and why you want this position” . The candidate proceeds to tell me that they wanted this job to: get their foot in the door to open up other doors at the institution, to get their PhD, to live in XYZ place, etc.  As I was listening, I couldn’t help but think that the reason this candidate wanted this position was for their own agenda. The candidate mentioned nothing about why they wanted the position, let alone why they wanted to work at the institution. So we talked about Wooing – like how on a first date you can’t make it all about you, but you have to make it about your date too. In this sense, while this candidate wanted all of these things for them, they never woo’d the employer. I made them start over again, and include why working for this employer would impact their career.

What I took away from this experience

One of my biggest takeaways, aside from the talented up-and-coming grad students we have entering the field, is the fact that we don’t do a lot to prep our students for interviews. I know at my institution, we do mock placement, but I have heard we are one of the few that do. As I spoke with these candidates, I wondered how we, as a profession, can assist our grads and new professionals (who might be searching for that next step) on how to interview, not only in a placement exchange situation, but also at on campus interviews. I know there have been many webinars, blogs, and other forms of relaying this information, but it’s not enough to help our candidates.

 

Working in the Interim

Working in an interim position is weird and a lot of work. I have all of the responsibilities of the job I was hired to do, plus I have these new responsibilities, meetings, and connections that I didn’t know I would have.  I also find myself cleaning up a lot of messes or reworking a lot of standard operating procedures.  Life in the interim (or double interim in my case) is definitely an exhausting (PSA- I am NOT glorifying how busy I am) and yet excellent way to test the skills that other jobs have prepared me to do. I’ve come up with some interesting observations since I’ve held my one interim position for 10 months and counting and my other interim position for 3 months and counting.

 

The Interim is Indefinite

When I took on my one interim role back in March 2015, I thought, oh I will only be seeing this through until we hire someone for a July 1 start date. Clearly, I was wrong. The interim period only has an expiration date of “until someone is hired”. This was a struggle for me in the beginning because I was unsure of how much time and energy I should invest in this one interim position, while still doing the job I was hired to do. Well, after coming to the realization that my unit was not going to be hiring anyone for the foreseeable future, I needed to allocate 100% of my time and energy in this interim role. I did my research and used my transferable skills to manage how I would go about managing and completing the responsibilities that went along with this position.

I Learned to Manage Up

Working with my direct supervisor, we came up with a plan to keep me from becoming too burned out while working multiple positions. Luckily, she was very receptive to my concerns and suggestions and, in the end, we ended up setting up a realistic workload for the both of us.  The key for me was all about the communication. My supervisor and I really worked on effectively communicating with each other, especially when it came to working with competing priorities. Luckily, I’ve been doing the job I was hired to do for a few years, so while there was the occasional surprise, I knew when our “higher than normal” volume of will happen.

If you’re unsure of what managing up really means, here’s a really great article: 6 Tips for Managing Up and What That Even Means

I Took the Opportunity to Learn New Things

I had to dust off my old Hall Director and graduate assistant hats for my two interim positions. There were so many transferable skills from those two positions I was able to leverage into my two interim positions. The cool part – I was able to expand on those two experiences, plus my current role, to really make an impact while in the interim. I have also had the opportunity to learn a lot of new skills and have had many new experiences. I was able to learn about different processes, build new relationships with constituents, and work on a (possible) restructure of an organization with the support and assistance of student leaders.

My Relationships With My Colleagues Are Even Better

I was put in charge of overseeing a residence center on campus, which is something I haven’t been involved with since my days as a Hall Director (circa 2013). I lucked out with the staff who ran this residence center, as they ran it like a well-oiled machine, and in my unbiased opinion, are one of the best staffs on this campus. I was already familiar with the residence center, as it was home to 2 Living-Learning Centers that I was working with for 2+ years.  I already had a positive rapport with the professional staff in that center, and so working with them was an easy transition.   It was really important for me to learn more about their daily operations, have one on one conversations, be visible and present, and go to bat for them when I knew they needed the extra support. Across the board, this interim position helped me and my colleagues build a better working relationship than we had before. While I had a vague understanding of the scope of their responsibilities, I learned a lot of new things about their positions and about each individual leadership team member.

Time Management

I used to think I had fairly good time management skills. Now I know I have really good time management skills. With a slew of things on my calendar, it was important for me to figure out priorities, but to also keep up with the not-so-urgent things. Once I was able to figure out how to manage my time, it was a lot easier for me to work on multiple projects and for me not to become burned out on work. While I could only prepare for so much, I was able to handle those unexpected moments and issues that only seem to arise at the worst times (4:59PM on a Friday).

 

While at first it was daunting to hold down three different roles and responsibilities, I really took a step back to figure out how this was going to work for me. While it is a lot of work, I find that these different experiences have made me a better professional and have really opened my eyes to some new experiences.

 

We’re in the business of putting butts in beds

I recently attended an MBA information session at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. The day began with a class “The Firm in the Capital Market”, an informational discussion with an admissions rep and 2 current MBA students, and ended with lunch with those two MBA students. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about myself and why I would want to pursue and MBA.

I had no idea what to expect from the class, nor did I even get to select that class that I was to sit in with. My student hostess shared with me the case study that they would be discussing that morning. The case was with regards to Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. and essentially drawing parallels to their market numbers and the business decisions that influence investors and the Return on Invested Capital (ROIC):

A calculation used to assess a company’s efficiency at allocating the capital under its control to profitable investments. Return on invested capital gives a sense of how well a company is using its money to generate returns. Comparing a company’s return on capital (ROIC) with its weighted average cost of capital (WACC) reveals whether invested capital is being used effectively.

We looked at both companies from a lot of different angles – not just the products that they produce or what different entities that they own. I know I will never look at a Coke or Pepsi product in the same way again and while we know Coke and Pepsi are both popular for their fizzy drinks – they’re really just good at brand management and marketing. The class ended and left me filled with joy because of all the critical thinking that happened during the class and gave me lots to think about as I begin this MBA journey.

Next was a meeting with an admissions rep and two 2nd year MBA students. While in this meeting admissions rep asked me “Why do you want an MBA?” She assured me that I was not interviewing, rather that she wanted to help figure out if the Kelley program would be a good fit for what I wanted to do. I spoke about my career trajectory and how I’ve been in residence life/student affairs for seven year and while I appreciate the theory and the student development aspect of what we do, I’ve always been intrigued to look at higher education from a business model – after all – we are a large non-profit and residence life is in the business of putting butts into beds. Take away the glitter, the snaps, the butcher paper and door tags – when you break it down into simple terms: students+ beds + (optional) dining plan = $$$$$$$$$$$$.

I truly think that as a profession, we need to be more cognizant of higher education being a business, and therefore; residence life and housing a subset (think — we’re the Aqufina to the larger Pepsi Co) of the major company. I encourage you all to Google “Higher Education Business Plans” and read some of the articles. This article “Beyond the Inflection Point: Reimagining Business Models for Higher Education” is one that  caught my eye. More on this topic later — especially if I am afforded the opportunity to get into a program.

In simple terms, this is just one part of why I want to do an MBA program. Organizational leadership and  management definitely appeals to me – but so does non-profit management. I love coming in and improving systems, leaving a signature touch wherever I go. I would love to still be a Director of Development for a Student Affairs dept. and I think having an MBA will set me up for success.  I am optimistic about this new journey and what my future has in store for me.

 

 

Philanthropy and Underrepresented Students and Alumni

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Photo credit: UPennGSE (http://www.gse.upenn.edu/pdf/cmsi/engaging_diverse_alumni.pdf)

The daily work of student affairs lies the groundwork for successful fundraising –  Patricia Rissmeyer

One of the best things about working in student affairs is the fact that we get to interact with such a diverse student population. We bring many voices to the table and create a space where those voices can be heard. While we work with these students in college, we leave it up to our colleagues in development and alumni affairs to connect with this vast population once these students graduate.

As we evolve in the world of giving and stewardship, working with this population is where advancement professionals miss the mark. Reaching out to underrepresented students and  or alumni  (GLBTQ, POC) is different. Why? Their motivations for giving will likely be different. Because of this, when we need to reach out to these populations to broaden stewardship efforts, we need to be mindful. Historically, our perception of philanthropy has been viewed through a white male lens, as the reflection of which demographic is most likely to give back to an institution.

The mindfulness we exercise when working with diverse populations extends into the alumni experience. As advancement professionals, we need to keep in mind a few key things:

Lesson in Communication: Don’t Skip the One on One Conversations

I found that working with my student staff was a great opportunity to work toward a common goal/vision/mission/job. When having one-on-one conversations with my students (regardless of staff or not staff) the conversations gave me great insight into the student perspective. It was also an excellent opportunity to build trust  in that relationship. Since advancement’s foundations are created through relationship building and communication, this is one of the most vital pieces to building connections with underrepresented alumni. Speaking of communication, when going into a meeting with a prospective donor, professionals need to respect the identity, culture, and traditions of that person. Try using common language and stay away from colloquialisms that might not translate well with your specific group of alumni.

Lesson in Understanding: Why Underrepresented Alumni Give

We all give for different reasons. Perhaps we had a really great college experience, a faculty member who inspired us, or were part of a student organization that helped us get to where we are today. No matter what, there is always some sort of motivation, albeit intrinsic or extrinsic, as to why we give.

Research on why POC give back shows:

  • African Americans are more likely to respond to appeals tied to racial uplift
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders prefer to make gifts in memory of lost loved ones
  • Latinos often support programs that address barriers to Latino educational engagement
  • Native Americans often view giving as an extension of honor, and tie it to preserving the future generation of Native people

– Gasman & Bowman(2013)

Lesson in Relevance: Golf Tournaments are Dead

Not only are golf tournaments dead, they’re laced with tons of connotations of white privilege. While they were once considered big money makers for  non-profit organizations, they most likely won’t resonate with the populations you are trying to reach. Instead of creating an event around a specific group, why not invite that population to an event either on or off campus? [For instance, invite an alumni group made up of individuals who identify as GLBTQ to a Pride event hosted on campus.] You don’t have to recreate the wheel in this instance. The program that you invite alumni to is already in place and then it gives alumni access to campus and undergraduate students; which in turn, will make for great networking opportunities for both the students and alumni.

The bottom line is that if you want to broaden your stewardship lens, you need to figure out how to attract and work with different populations of students and alumni. Reach out to campus partners and start building relationships with those professionals who work in multicultural centers, campus housing and activities, and NPHC organizations. Always push to challenge yourself to think differently about the who and the why. Underrepresented students and alumni giving their time, talent, and eventually treasure will happen with thoughtful research and time.

Author’s Note:

A huge thank you to Stacy, Chelsea, Jessi, and Tony for their outstanding editing skills!

This post was inspired by a presentation I attended at ACPA 15: “My Money Isn’t Good Enough: Creating Inclusive Fundraising Practices”. The presenters were Michael Bumbry and Jason Garvey

The Lost Art of Critical Thought

Think

Who cares if you know all of Chickering’s seven vectors? That’s not critical thinking – Dr. Vasti Torres

Humans are in a rare position on this planet — we are one of the few mammals that have the ability to use our brains to for creativity, thought, conversation, and pretty much anything to make this world a better place. Most of us have the capacity to do just about everything our bodies were meant to do: move, breathe, touch, feel, taste and smell. Our brains allow us to do all of this and go beyond – to write, to read and to even calculate complicated math problems.

But where did we lose our ability to think critically? When did that stop being a thing? When did we allow ourselves to become machines on input and regurgitation of information? When did we become passively accepting of ideas?

To provide you with some context of this post and the quote below the image, the Idea Generator session at the American College Personnel Association (ACPA)’s annual convention brought together a panel of scholars from our field (Dr. Patty Perillo, Donna Lee, Dr. Robert Reason, Dr. Joan Hirt, Dr. Vasti Torres, and Dr. Jill Carnaghi)and were asked a questions by the “provocateur” , Dr.John Dugan based on the topic:  #frompreptopractice: Narrowing the Gap Between What We Learn and What We Do.  The conversation was lively and had some great aspects/conversations/ opinions from the panel (and those who tapped the original panelists out). And it is within this panel that the lack of critical thought conversation was born.

Thinking back to my graduate school days (2006-2008) I was challenged to think: I had some amazing faculty (Dr. Lynn Gangone, Dr. Brian Bridges, Dr. Billy Molasso to name a few) who made it a point to not just memorize theorists but to really see the college student in the essence of a theory — how do they act, why do act this way, who are today’s college student? Classes were 99% discussion based, and from what I gather from my law school friends, were taught mostly like law school classes. My faculty gave us the opportunity to express our thoughts and to challenge our peers. Even exams and papers made us look at theories in a different way, such that they would be applicable in the actual, practical work that we would eventually do as practitioners.

My faculty, were able to bridge the gap, which had to do with the fact that my program was a more “professional” program: all of us worked during the day and attended class at night, allowing us to really be professionals and to apply the work that we did in class to our jobs (yes, most of us had full-time jobs and went to grad school). I appreciate everything my graduate school did to prepare me for my future as a professional in student affairs, but my real takeaways were to always think and (sometimes more importantly)listen critically about the way we do things and why we do things.

There are times when I get frustrated by people’s lack of ability to analyze situations and their ability to express their thoughts. On the flip side, I think as a student affairs community, we are scared of these thinkers because their thoughts are different than our own and we don’t know how to handle it. I know when I see something come across my screen or am in a conversation with someone who has this “whole other ballpark” idea, I shut up and listen. I am far more interested in a unique thought than something that is affirming to someone else’s. Show me something new.

As a student affairs community, I encourage all of us to listen critically to these other thoughts and ideas. I think we need to step up and be more vulnerable and comfortable with expressing our ideas. We keep doing the same things, which doesn’t quite fit with our profession — as it is ever evolving. From the way we teach our grad students to the seasoned senior student affairs officer , we are never too old to think critically. I encourage all of us to read, to listen, to be informed from outside of our profession and perhaps you might be inspired to think about something differently.

Final Thought/Question: If we are unable to think critically for ourselves (and express them) how are we supposed to encourage and teach this to our students?

Mallory and Stacy

Yesterday, two really great blogs came out from @StacyLOliver and @MalloryBower.

From “Hold onto the Good Ones” by Stacy

Those who are the loudest are not always right. Having 25,000 Twitter followers should not be confused for having experience or wisdom in the field. Trust your gut more than you trust our self-appointed thought leaders or gurus — you have to live with your decisions longer than you will ever live with one of their decisions.

From “Are You Shoulding Me?” (on half marathons, speaking gigs, the PhD, and Nutella) by Mallory

The trick is to figure out what YOU want. This takes most of us a while, it’s OKAY. I know it seems like everyone around you is running marathons while writing science fiction novels and raising quadruplets who play classical piano. It’s easy to get insecure about this, so when people compliment your talents it’s easy to get sucked into what everyone else is doing. Respond to unsolicited advice with a silent, “ARE YOU SHOULDING ME?!” and then a hearty, “THANKS, BUT NO THANKS.

All too often we seek advice from others OR  unsolicited advice comes our way when we want to try something new.  I want to thank both Mallory and Stacy for their blog entries, but most importantly, encouraging and challenging each and every one of us to just do what we want and not rely solely on other people’s opinions.

If you haven’t already, take some time to read each of these blogs — that’s my unsolicited advice for the day.

#GivingTuesday

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In the spirit of #GivingTuesday*, I give you a list of charities that I’ve supported in 2014.

Boston Children’s Hospital For obvious reasons, they’re the reason I was able to run the NYC Marathon this year. They’re mission is right in their tagline: Until every child is well.

CharityWater A great organization that funds a clean water initiative for a community in need. The campaign I supported was for my pal Jeff Lail — who sets up a donation project each year for his birthday.

ACPA Diamond Honoree Program I love this program for so many reasons. Not only does a very deserving member of our profession get recognized for all the amazing work that they do —  your donation goes to support their nomination, which in turn goes back to the association to fund programming.  Everybody Wins!

George Washington University, Graduate School of Education and Human Resource Development GW provided me with a great education to help get me to where I am today. I will always be thankful and while I am still paying off my tuition, I really wanted to support them to help make a difference

Goodwill Every time I donate my personal items, off to Goodwill it goes. “Goodwill works to enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.”

Of course #GivingTuesday does not have to be about an actual monetary donation. Volunteering for different activities and/or lending a helping hand to someone in need should also be incorporated into what it means to give. Giving can be based of off the three T’s: Time, Talent, Treasure.  For student affairs professionals, this could mean taking some time to mentor a student or to help an unemployed graduate student (or pro) find their way into (or back into) our field.  I’ve volunteered my time giving presentations to different organizations, facilitating leadership initiatives, and helping students and professionals find their way. In the future, I want to expand my volunteer efforts to be more local community based, rather than just sticking to the profession.

What are some of the things you plan on doing on #GivingTuesday? Remember, it doesn’t have to be a monetary donation, but instead, could be a pledge to give your time and talent to an organization.

* Note: While I do enjoy the idea of #GivingTuesday, giving to a charitable organization or volunteering should be done year-round when possible. When there is a need, you should donate time, talent, and treasure.