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Following your inner compass to find your cause area

4 simple exercises that you may be already doing to move from passive to active engagement with the issues and communities you care about.
byAshley BratrudonDecember 1, 2022

At Cause Strategy Partners, our conversations are centered around causes. Internally, our team shares the passion areas that uniquely drive us, and externally we use processes and training to inspire board candidates to connect with nonprofit organizations across diverse cause areas. In fact, the concept of sharing causes is what Cause Strategy Partners was built on when Rob Acton made a resolution to replace the often dreaded networking question, “So what kind of work do you do?” with a more meaningful one:

"What causes do you support?"

While we aspire for professionals globally to have an honest and purposeful answer to this question, finding and knowing your response is a process of reflection and intention. If you were to prompt this question to peers in the workplace you may find that many professionals have a difficult time responding, and perhaps you have the same challenge when asking yourself this question. You are most definitely not alone.

For those of us exploring our cause areas and narrowing in on where to channel our passions, here are 4 simple exercises to begin identifying your personal causes and start the journey toward making them come to life:

1. Take note of your passions and hobbies

Put pen to paper and list the relationships and activities in your life that you enjoy and that spark interest. Include the professional tasks and roles that make you feel confident. This is a good grounding exercise to start thinking about the intersection of our personal passions and skills with a cause area. After making your list, circle the top three that seem most relevant to you and your community today.

Strive to find a cause area that correlates with one or more of these. Ultimately our cause area should go hand in hand with a passion; allowing us to deepen it even further by engaging in this passion with others.

I was thrilled to be matched with Arts at the Old Fire Station, a local charity in my Oxford community that combines the two causes nearest to my heart: creativity and homelessness. Through my time as a Trustee, I have been able to draw on my professional experience to inform the organization’s creative & digital strategy; at the same time, board service has equipped me with new skills: from governance protocol to team management to annual planning and beyond.

And perhaps more importantly, my time at the Old Fire Station has provided me with meaningful connections, both with my fellow board members and with members of my local community facing tough times.

Laura HermanBoardLeader, Arts at the Old Fire Station

2. Observe your gut reaction to headlines

While reading or watching the news, which headlines incite a reaction? What sticks out to you most? When dedicating attention to this question, chances are you’ll start to notice patterns of news stories or events that evoke strong emotions. Whether those emotions are joy, anger, or an urge to learn more, our gut reaction can serve as a compass to point us in the direction of cause areas that we should consider exploring further. Using this opportunity to learn more is also an important promoter for your work as an advocate.

3. Reflect on your experiences and values

‘What defines you?’ can feel like a loaded question. It looms big because the answers to a few tousled words are bountiful and are beautifully complex. We suggest starting with some inner reflection that is closer to self; What key life experiences have shaped you? Consider the values that represent you as a result of each experience. Let yourself be intrinsically drawn to a few standout values that feel consistent with past, present, and future experiences and goals.

Tapping into your personal principles is like wearing a personally doctored lens to examine cause areas. You’re starting the process of creating your customized roadmap to uncover a genuine connection between a cause, your lived experience, and your values.

4. After the inner work comes the outer work: research and explore organizations

Bring these themes together and keep them top of mind while researching impactful organizations in the community. Your own research can be helpful but consider reaching out to those in your network to learn more about the organizations they support and how others contribute to the mission. Once you’ve keyed into a top few that excite you, deepen your understanding of the organizations by attending an upcoming event, program, or fundraiser, or even take it a step further by volunteering to gain a firsthand look at their work.

Everyone begins this process at a different starting point. The exploration alone isn’t quite enough; exploration is intended to move us from bearing witness to being active participants. It’s when we live out our passions and areas of care that we unlock purpose. Whether your cause lies in education, refugee rights, LGBTQ+ advocacy, the arts, climate change, youth engagement, health equity, or anything that calls for ongoing societal action, we encourage you to take a stance that aligns with your values and get involved. Volunteering, a monthly donation, advocating for your organization’s valuable work, or even assuming a new board seat are all great ways to support the causes we care about.

Talented and caring professionals can and should be utilizing their skills, drive, and networks to support social initiatives in their communities and in society at large. With such pressing needs in our world today, it can often feel overwhelming and difficult to pinpoint which causes to support and how to get involved. Our team strives to inspire professionals of all stages to explore their causes and live them out.

We challenge you to spark a conversation by asking more meaningful questions to your network: What Causes do you support? And see what happens and where this can lead others.
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