How Clarifying Your Gifts Helps You Use Your Talents for Good
Clarifying your activism gifts means a better understanding of how you can use your talents in activism. And that means deeper engagement with your cause.
But, sometimes, new activists come at their opportunities from a backward perspective. Consider Jeremy’s story.
An Activism Scenario
Jeremy has a bipolar diagnosis and wants to support mental health activism. So he contacts the local affiliate of a national organization and asks how he can help. Their immediate need is for peer support group coordinators. So he signs up for the training.
That sounds good, right? Because he is meeting an immediate need in his community.
But Jeremy is an introvert and prefers to work alone. Although he works hard and learns the necessary skills, he comes home completely drained and overwhelmed after support group meetings. After three months, it hasn’t gotten easier. Finally, he gives notice that he cannot do it anymore. Unfortunately, he feels like a failure.
A Better Scenario
This lack of match between Jeremy’s talents and the organization’s needs is a problem for both Jeremy and the organization.
Jeremy is exhausted, overwhelmed, and upset that he cannot sustain his work.
And now the organization now has to recruit and train another peer support coordinator.
If Jeremy had clarified his gifts, he could have communicated them to the organization. And if the organization had prioritized placing volunteers in spots that match their gifts, they would not have lost a talented, dedicated volunteer. Jeremy’s a computer guy who likes to work alone. And the organization needs help managing its database. That would have been a perfect volunteer match.
Advantages of Clarifying Your Gifts
By clarifying your gifts, you use your talents for good. This has many advantages.
For example, the way that you like to work is clear so you can make sure your work is motivating. Those skills are probably things you do well and that you enjoy doing. That will keep you energized. With this self-reflection, you are prepared to use your talents in your activism.
How to Use Your Talents
Be clear about your gifts, including your skills, knowledge, and motivation.
If you have done volunteer work in the past, inventory those skills. Activist Randy Schutt created the Activist Skills and Experiences Questionnaire. This is an assessment tool to allow activists to inventory their skills and experiences. The questionnaire is in The What’s On Your Sign? Workbook, or at The Vernal Project
If you don’t have specific activism experience, the easiest method is to ask yourself
- What skills do you use regularly?
- What do people say you do well?
- Everyone is the go-to person for something — what is it for you?
Knowledge specific to a cause is important but not necessary. You can gain the understanding you need once you decide on the cause closest to your heart.
But, if you have experience in activism, complete the Activist Knowledge and Experiences part of Randy Schutt’s questionnaire.
Every activist should consider their level of cultural competence. For example, examine how you connect with those of diverse cultural backgrounds. Recognize where you hold privilege and how it affects your work, and pinpoint your areas of growth.
Finally, understand your motivation.
Pay attention to what long-term, effective activists do. They are clear about what motivates them.
There are 4 areas of personal motivation:
- Translating values into positive change
- Getting satisfaction from the activism work itself
- Enjoying working with others
- Feeling capable and learning
Use Your Talents for Deeper Engagement
Learn from Jeremy’s experiences and be prepared by understanding your gifts and matching them to your activism opportunities. Because the payoff will come in deeper engagement in your cause and more power to make a difference.