A SHIFTer Tries Skills-Based Volunteering

One of SHIFT’s employee benefits is Volunteer Time Off to better our community. Here at the Boston office, SHIFTers volunteer at a local farm, at a local Boys and Girls Club, on local charity boards, at Habitat for Humanity and other great organizations. SHIFTers in every office participate using their Volunteer Time Off, or using their own hours such as our office manager in San Francisco.

In 2015, I took a new approach to volunteering and embraced skills-based volunteering. I looked for ways to apply my public relations capabilities towards programs that I felt passionately about and that needed the help. Even after my SHIFT hours were ‘used up’ – I realized how rewarding it was and continued.

Last spring, I heard that the Framingham School Committee was convening a Task Force to examine communications throughout the district (my local school district). I joined a lively group that was dedicated to proposing recommendations and immediate improvements. It was a five-month project that culminated in a report for the Superintendent of Schools and School Committee to evaluate and implement as desired. This was particularly educational for me personally as the K-12 education market was new to me. The complexities of student, parent, teacher, staff and community two-way communications were intriguing, and eye opening.

Late fall and early winter, my church recorded and released a CD, and I connected with local media outlets to share the story in print, online and broadcast outlets. It helped to sell copies of the CD and enabled the church to share their beautiful music more broadly. My favorite piece of coverage was a New England Cable News clip. The most surprising thing I learned? While I was focused on preparing the choir members for their five minutes of fame, I never thought it would have been *one of my own daughters* who twirled her hair on camera (0:02-0:03). I guess Mommy forgot to media train her own kindergartener!

As we start a new year, I am not sure yet where my volunteer time will go – but I believe it will again be in the skills-based arena. It felt great.

I’m curious – have you tried skills-based volunteering before? What did you do?

Catherine Allen
Executive Vice President

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Posted on January 8, 2016 in Agency Life, Values

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About the Author

Catherine serves as the Executive Vice President, East Coast Account Services at SHIFT Communications, Inc. She has been with the firm since its opening day and currently manages SHIFT’s Boston and NYC based VPs and SVPs, ensuring the highest caliber of client service. Catherine partners with these team leads to provide trusted strategic PR and social media counsel to a variety of brands. Clients turn to her to find quick thinking, dedicated support and a true communications partnership. She takes existing PR programs for national brands and brings them to the next level with fierce messaging, creative pitch angles and aggressive tactics, and she listens to start-ups to develop the right value prop and game plan to debut them to market. These programs have won her team recognition from the Society for New Communications Research, the SABRE Awards, Bulldog Media Relations Awards, PR Daily Awards and the New England Publicity Club’s Bell Ringer Awards program.

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