So you’ve made the decision to take a sabbatical – now what? There are many different paths to take. No two sabbaticals are the same.
What if you used this important time in your life to make an impact?
Giving back before, during and after your sabbatical can truly be life changing.
Giving back and making an impact can be implemented not just during your sabbatical but as a theme throughout your planning, during your time away, and after coming back home.
If you want to use your career break to create more meaning in your life, if you currently feel a lack of purpose in your day-to-day, or if you are looking to be more connected to yourself and to the world, then keep on reading!
Whether it be volunteering and giving some of your time, maybe offering your expertise, or even donating to a non-profit, there are many ways to give back to both your local community and those you may be visiting during your trip. And believe us, this can create an impact not just for those you will help, but within yourself as well!
Why is giving back important
Why can it be a good idea to find a cause you love, volunteer your time, and give back during your break?
Spending time enriching your community, wherever that may be at a given time, is a great way to broaden your perspective of the world.
You’ve probably heard that it’s been statistically proven that people who volunteer regularly are healthier both physically and mentally. And doesn’t that sound right in line with the overall goal of a sabbatical?
When you contribute to something greater than yourself, you experience the ultimate form of happiness and fulfillment. Whether you place your focus on your local community or you opt to support a community abroad, by dedicating yourself to a project and/or surrounding yourself with people who are committed to bettering the world, you can learn so much about how the world works and all that humanity has to offer.
It also adds a big boost to your resume when you return to work post-sabbatical. You gain a unique sense of purpose and accomplishment by serving and supporting those around you.
Knowing that you’ve made an active difference in someone else’s life is a very humbling feeling.
Here are some of the top benefits of giving back:
- Improving your own well-being and sense of purpose
- Deepening your understanding of the world we live in
- Boosting your resume
- Finding a deeper sense of fulfillment outside of your career
Is giving back for you?
While it’s not necessary to give back as part of your sabbatical, it can be really beneficial for some.
If you’re feeling a bit rudderless, a lack of purpose beyond the day-to-day, or your career just isn’t feeling quite right for you, giving back can give you a powerful boost of energy and motivation. Seeing the power you have, and the changes you can create in other people helps to remind you of your own innate ability to make a difference.
If you want to be an active participant in the world, giving back is a good way to go. Often, in our busy and chaotic lives, we can forget that we live in a vast world full of other people, and we can lose a sense of connection both with ourselves and others. Giving can be a way to appreciate the commonalities among humans across the globe; the foundation of giving back is connection and relationship building.
Where to start? Time, Talent, Treasure
A common phrase in philanthropy is “time, talent, and treasure”. Think of time, talent, and treasure as the currencies we all use to get things done. This framework allows us to consider how we’re using the resources available to us at any given moment.
Together, time, talent, and treasure form a currency worth more than money.
Some people volunteer (time), others share their experience or expertise (talent), and others donate cash (treasure).
Throughout different moments in your life, you might have more access to one or another of these. At the peak of your career, you may have less time and more money. During your sabbatical, you may have less money and more time.
Take time to assess your own resources:
- What can you offer others right now?
- What would you like to offer?
This can be a great starting point when considering the idea of giving back during your sabbatical.
Start by making a list of your available resources:
How much time do you (and will you) have to dedicate to a project or a cause? You don’t have to spend all your time volunteering.
>> Really ask yourself how much time you have available that you would gladly spend helping others.
It’s important to give from a place of love vs. guilt or feeling forced to. And it’s better to start small and increase your hours rather than burn yourself out. There is such a thing as compassion fatigue.
What talents, experience, and expertise do you have and would like to share with others? You may be surprised at how helpful the skills you take for granted can be to others.
>> Think about the languages you speak, the professional tasks you do, the hobbies that you have, or anything that comes naturally to you.
Using a computer, for example, might be something you do every day, and even though you’re not a computer engineer you could teach someone who has never used one before.
And don’t underestimate the value of simply spending time with people who appreciate who you are. Are there kids who would love to play games you can teach them? Seniors who could use help with basic household activities and who would like the company?
How much money do you currently have that you could donate to a non-profit or a cause?
One of the main challenges for nonprofit organizations is funding. They each are founded on a mission and a vision, and usually have passionate individuals working for them. But since their purposes are to give back, they rely on donors to help finance their projects.
Consider taking some time to learn about the current projects of a nonprofit that supports a cause that’s important to you. What are they working on? What are their funding goals? Is there an amount you can contribute to help move the organization’s mission forward?
>> One other benefit of donating money is the potential tax benefit. For us, this is just an added bonus. Giving is the true intent. But there are ways to reflect your giving on your tax return and potentially reduce the tax you pay.
Considerations for US taxes when making donations
- To be deductible, the receiving organization must be a qualified nonprofit
- There are limitations on how much can be deducted each year
- If you don’t itemize on your taxes, you may not receive a deduction at all for charitable contributions
- There are ways to give other than giving cash directly to an organization:
- Donor Advised Fund (DAF):
- Allows you to contribute funds to an account that’s earmarked for future giving
- Funds can be invested and distributed at your discretion
- The contribution is eligible for a deduction in the year it’s made
- There are tax planning strategies that involve DAFs
- Highly Appreciated Stock
- If you have stock with low cost basis, it can be worth considering donating it to the organization instead of giving cash
- The organization can receive the stock and sell at its discretion
- The donation can be deductible and you can avoid potential capital gains tax that you would have had to pay if you had sold the stock and donated the cash proceeds
- In-Kind Donations
- Instead of giving cash, you can consider giving things that may be useful to the organization
- This can include things like equipment, tools, technology, housewares, vehicles, etc.
- Clear records should be kept
Now that you’ve listed your resources, you’re more clear on what you have to give!
The importance of defining your sabbatical goals
A big part of your sabbatical planning is getting clear on your goals for your time away. Your goals create a solid foundation for you to begin designing your trip. And you can link your volunteer work, donations, or community work into your goals.
For example, if one of your sabbatical goals is to explore a culture entirely different from your own, maybe you could seek out a volunteer opportunity at a cultural center or school in the country you’re planning to visit. Or, if you want to learn a new language, this can also link the two together!
Click here to learn more about how to define your sabbatical goals.
Ways of giving back
Looking for ideas on how to give back before, during and after your sabbatical? Get inspired now!
BEFORE your Sabbatical:
- Spring Clean!
This is a great time to purge! If you’re planning on packing up your things, this can be an opportunity to decide what you want to keep and what you might be able to get rid of. And while you’re decluttering, you may be able to donate previously loved goods to give back to your community. Clear out space in your home (or storage unit) so that when you return, you come back to items you genuinely love and want.
>> Select items that your local community will want and use. Check out Charity Navigator to help figure out what items are useful to donate.
- Prepare for your Trip
Are you going to a part of the world that you can access while at home? Consider connecting with expatriates or immigrant populations while you’re still working. It can be a great way to change your perspective on your day-to-day now, and can be a bridge to what you do during your sabbatical.
Or is there a type of volunteering you’re planning to do while away that’s available to you now? Volunteering with established organizations at home can be a great way to get ideas on how you can help similar efforts during your trip.
Personal example: Taylor volunteered with a gardening program for kids in Seattle before her sabbatical abroad. She learned about fun, low-cost activities that she could then share with other kids while on her trip.
DURING your Sabbatical:
Once your sabbatical begins, you’ll most likely have more time on your hands. This can be a good time to start volunteering and giving back to the local communities or causes that are important to you, whether local or on your travels.
Your sabbatical can also help you discover causes that are important to you. Here are five different categories to consider:
- Sports and leisure
Some examples of volunteer work could include:
- Teaching English
- Volunteering at children’s schools
- Sharing your knowledge at an organization that’s in your line of work
- Helping to build local infrastructure
- Supporting disaster relief
- Volunteering at animal shelters or refuges
- Contributing to women’s empowerment and welfare efforts
You can connect with volunteer organizations before you leave to intentionally include them in your travel plans, or you can seek these opportunities out along the way.
Volunteering may be the focus of your sabbatical, or it may just be a portion of what you plan to do while away. Even one hour of giving back to something that fills you up can be an incredibly memorable part of your sabbatical!
AFTER your Sabbatical:
- Take Time to Reflect
Upon return, take time to reflect on your entire experience. What do you want to remember?
How can you begin to incorporate your learnings, including the causes that are important to you, in your day-to-day life?
And then build on the commitment you fostered while away and consider volunteering for a similar cause in your local community. You may be able to have a lasting impact both abroad and at home. It’s also a great way to immerse yourself back into society if you’ve been away for a long time.
- Keep In Touch!
Did you make any connections with others who share your interest in a certain cause while you were away? Keep in touch with them!
Not only might there be ways to continue to support their work now that you’re back, you’ll also be able to elongate the impact of your sabbatical experience for yourself. Having personal relationships with others abroad, particularly if they’re founded on shared values, can make the world feel a bit smaller, make the experience richer, and help who you are at the core shine brighter. You just might never see the world the same way again.
- Share about Your Experience
Don’t keep your experience to yourself! Share your volunteer stories, pictures, and adventures when you get back. This too can help you relive parts of your sabbatical, and it can also inspire others to travel and see new places themselves. It might inspire someone to volunteer too!
Sharing your experiences in and of itself is a way to give back. It gives credence to those who you served while away, and it humanizes parts of the world that might be unknown to people at home.
Example: The Peace Corps has what they call the Third Goal: To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. There’s an entire office dedicated to it. Volunteers are invited (and expected) to share with people at home about their experiences. Check out the Peace Corps YouTube Channel to see volunteers share about their projects, a day in the life of a local, where they live, etc.
- Reassess What You Now Have to Give
As you reintegrate back into life at home, go back to the time, talent, and treasure question. What resources would you like to cultivate or nurture so you can continue to give back to the things that matter to you?
Giving back, in any way that works for you, can help make your sabbatical more meaningful and deepen your experience.
You also get to meet really cool people, immerse yourself in new experiences and build a resume employers will love. After all, your experience will be full of perspective, diversity, and goodness.
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