Balancing Act: How to make time for giving back

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Erin McHugh had been working as a bookseller during the day and author at night. Her jam-packed work schedule left her little time for volunteering. Feeling unfulfilled, she decided to try an approach she could squeeze into her routine -- one small good deed every day for a year.

Her deeds ranged from taking a senior out for ice cream to donating books to the library. As she started blogging about her mission, others piped in. "I realized the small stuff is what people could relate to."

Ms. McHugh turned her personal mission into a book, "One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better."

Much like Ms. McHugh, American workers are finding ways to participate in volunteering, even as their work hours increase. Among men and women in professional and managerial positions, a whopping 38 percent of men and 14 percent of women worked 50 hours or more per week in 2011. At the same time, the volunteer rate rose by 0.5 percentage points to 26.8 percent for the year, with more than 64 million people volunteering at least once, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are ways to help you fit charity and volunteer work into your work-life balance.

Multitask: Volunteer work poses an opportunity for multitasking. It can double as a way to raise your business profile and even squeeze some exercise into your agenda.

Detra Shaw-Wilder, a litigation partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, focuses her volunteer involvement to efforts to increase minority lawyers in the legal profession.

Meanwhile, Adrianna Truby, a teacher at Miami's Palmer Trinity School, participate in the growing trend toward combining exercise with volunteer work. She spends her Saturdays training volunteers to run marathons and personally runs to raise money for the organization.

Make it your hobby: For workers trying to avoid burnout, volunteering has become a hobby or passion that provides meaning outside of their careers. Miami publicist Amy Zakarin said her involvement in animal rescue and welfare brings her fulfillment. "No matter how much time I spend on this, it's not enough."

Get your company involved: Corporate volunteerism is on the rise, with more businesses organizing service days or group projects.

Build it into your business plan: Some leaders are building businesses around charitable giving. Tony Lamb, founder of Kona Ice, operates his business on a model that teams up with schools, community organizations and youth sports teams. The company and its franchisees give 25 percent of gross sales from a fundraising event to the local organization.

Look for one-day projects: Many cities have websites set up for volunteers to work short-term or single-day projects.


Cindy Krischer Goodman can be reached at


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