National Volunteer Week: Impact, Balance and Involvement from the Curley Team
While working remotely for Curley Company during the past few months, I have had the unique opportunity to contribute to and learn from a Washington, D.C.-based agency, while also remaining connected to my current home city, New Orleans. Participating in volunteer and community involvement activities has allowed me to give back to my city, even during a time when everything takes place virtually.
Most days after work, I shut my laptop at 6 PM only to reopen it not long after. I have tutored local French immersion school students throughout the past four years while attending Tulane University, and now, I continue this through virtual tutoring programs. I was recently matched with a fourth-grader at Audubon Charter School, with whom I connect twice a week and help with homework, studying, and French language skills. In addition to this, I also teach weekly English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to immigrants in the New Orleans area and contribute to Tulane’s Young Alumni Reunion Committee.
Because these activities have become such an integral part of my work week, in honor of National Volunteer Week, I talked to some of my Curley Company coworkers about their own involvement experiences. I interviewed several team members to learn more about the impact they have made in their communities, how they balance this with their professional work, and what advice they have for others who want to get more involved in their communities.
Because the goal of any volunteer work is to help people in need, I was curious to find out what specific impacts my coworkers have made through these activities. For example, I see my direct impact when my ESL students improve their conversation skills and receive better grades in school. Here are a few more examples of the impacts my Curley team members have made in their own communities.
Curley Company CEO Jennifer Curley founded a nonprofit organization, Foundation for Community Betterment, with a group of friends. “The goal was to raise money and make an impact on people who are going through tough times,” she said. Through hosting fundraising events, the group has been able to fund numerous projects for people across the country. “Betterment is about giving back, having fun and paying it forward, and all those things are things that I really care about,” Jennifer explained. “It’s been a lifelong journey for me and I’m not done with it yet.”
Erika Dyer, Account Supervisor at Curley Company, shared that she is a part of the Washington Women in PR Board of Directors as the Emerging Leaders Awards Co-chair. “This is something I’m passionate about because I want to uplift women and help them reach their full potential. I believe gender parity is an extremely important issue,” Erika said. She has directly impacted the future generation of Public Relations professionals by encouraging diversity and inclusivity in recognizing emerging female leaders in the field.
Additionally, I spoke with Stefani Alexander, Vice President, about her work with Curley Company pro-bono client Dress for Success, Washington, D.C. “We had a very immediate impact,” she explained. “We elevated their digital presence and really kicked their social channels up a notch. They got a lot of really great engagement and we provided them some structure and strategy.” In fact, after just a month of working with Curley Company’s DFSWDC team, the organization experienced an impressive LinkedIn followers increase of 400% and impressions increase of 2,344%, as well as an Instagram interactions increase of 117%.
It is great to see not only the impact that individual team members are having on community organizations, but also how Curley Company as a whole has been able to pay it forward and contribute as well. But this left me wondering: while working busy and successful agency careers, how do my coworkers find the time to participate in these passion projects?
As an intern with pretty consistent hours, I rarely need to worry about working into the evenings or weekends, but I know that this is not necessarily the case for some members of my team. I asked KayAnn Schoeneman, Curley Company Executive Vice President, how she manages her time and finds a way to prioritize serving on the Board of Directors of College to Congress.
“I treat it as if it is part of the nonnegotiables in my job, and I don’t put it in a separate bucket,” KayAnn shared. “I really prioritize it and I make sure that I’m contributing something on a regular basis.” KayAnn also said that her enthusiasm for this cause, as it is “the perfect intersection of a lot of things I’m passionate about,” including government, policy and diversity, equity and inclusion, contributes to her dedication to the organization.
Erika agreed that being passionate and excited about the volunteer work you take part in contributes to your overall dedication and motivation to the project. She said, “If you are excited and passionate about what you’re working on in and outside of work, then you actually want to wake up and hit the ground running, whether it’s with your office job or a voluntary activity.”
While Interviewing Curley team members about their individual volunteer experiences, I also came across some people who do not currently participate in community engagement activities but hope to do so once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. I asked KayAnn and Jennifer if they have any advice for how we can all get more involved in the community and where they recommend looking for new volunteer opportunities.
“First and foremost, you should reflect and see what you’re interested in doing and what you can contribute and find rewarding because that is when there is the strongest likelihood that you’re going to continue with it and have an impact,” KayAnn advised. “All help is great, but it’s the sustained and consistent contributions that really make the largest impact.”
Jennifer also commented that anyone interested should pursue volunteer opportunities that fit their skills and interests and that they should be fearless in doing so. “My biggest advice is, just take the first step and go for it. Show up,” she explained. “You can make time, and if it’s a priority, you will,” she said.
When you think about a group of public relations professionals, you may not also assume that they are advocating for gender and economic equality, hosting philanthropic events or teaching languages. Volunteering in the community, however, is clearly an integral part of the Curley Company way. After all, as Stefani shared with me, “It’s just a really good way to stay connected to your community and stay connected to other human beings in general, while also doing good things that people need now more than ever.”