Bullish Q&A: Volunteering vs. Side Hustles

thank you for your time.

I’m a late twenties bullish lady in the international nonprofit field who really loves a 9-5 job and doesn’t see that changing. I’ve been wanting to begin some sort of side hustle/additional income stream, but I feel really strapped for the time because I volunteer a lot! Knowing that my career won’t make me rich, I have always been one to donate my time rather than money to the social justice causes that matter to me. I really value community involvement and it’s a key part of my gentlewomanly lifestyle. I’m choosy about my volunteer work-not like, stocking shelves at a soup kitchen. It’s all work that makes me connections in fields tangential to my own through serving on boards, or it’s skills-based work like teaching classes or facilitation that can benefit my regular job. I don’t feel like I have time to take on a big project, even a temporary one, but I want to eventually be the person whose contributions are honored at a annual gala, not the one organizing the party. Where does volunteering fit into the bullish lifestyle, and how can I fit in a side hustle into my schedule?

 

Great question, and it sounds like you have volunteering down – just no time for a side hustle. A few options:

You don’t actually have to volunteer 12 months out of the year. A lot of nonprofits have time-limited projects, capital campaigns, etc. Perhaps there is a season for volunteering and a season for side hustling. Plenty of side hustles are also seasonal – summer programs for kids, summer food trucks, holiday pop-up shops, etc.

You could take a break from volunteering and build a side hustle that would somehow also help the organizations you volunteer for. Is there some skill that nonprofits are always looking for someone to volunteer? Could you go learn that skill, get good at it, start a business, and then have that business offer its services pro bono?

Is there a class you teach as a volunteer that you could adapt for wealthy audiences, as a business? I had a friend who was an underpaid social worker, and I kept telling her – the problems you are counseling poor people about are also problems that wealthy people have! (Not all of them, but in terms of drug and alcohol addictions, kids with learning disabilities, and many others.) There’s nothing wrong with maintaining a low-paid mission from 9 to 5 and offering some luxe version on the weekends for busy executives or bored, rich housewives or children of the rich and famous.

I really hate that cliché “you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at the same time.” Blerg. But if your future self were looking back at you from the year 2035, what would she say? I think she would think that it would be no big deal at all if you took two years off volunteering to build a business that would help build your future (and make you a more powerful philanthropist). Just saying.