You have a choice. Every day, you’re confronted with opportunities to do good–or not. Often, these opportunities miss our attention. We might be too busy, too distracted or too tired to notice them. There are, however, those who combine passion with purposeful abandon. In the nonprofit sector, we often refer to these people as free agents.
Free agents are people and communities who are social change players, believers and doers. They are people on a mission who work outside of specific organizations to educate, advocate, organize, mobilize, raise money and engage others. Free agents often evolve to the point of creating their own organizations, forming free agent communities or working with partners to achieve their missions.
How do you become a free agent?
Have you ever met someone who wants to do good–but they don’t know how or where to start? Maybe this is you. Here are six steps to become a free agent and combine passion with purpose:
1. Believe you can make a difference.
Your life can be about more. It can have meaning and make an impact. Stan Slap in his book, Bury My Heart in Conference Room B, talks about the vital importance of emotional intelligence. The gist is about living your values no matter where you are–at work, at home, online and off. It’s about achieving success by who you are–not by compromising it.
Are you living your values? Do you believe that you can? Do you know what those values are? The biggest hurdles are often those we put in front of ourselves. Knowing you can make a difference and believing you can do it are essential. Forget about figuring out the ‘how’ for one minute. Because when you believe you can have an impact, you do. You commit yourself not just physically, mentally and financially–but also emotionally. This emotional commitment is what will not only push you through the hard times–but also attract others to your mission. All you have to do is believe.
- –[Book] 5: Where will you be five years from today?
- –[Tool] myhealthfinder: Connecting health + happiness
- –[Tool] Myers Briggs: Understanding Self; Creating Self-Awareness
- –[Service] Kayak.com: Getaway for Clarity; Reflection
2. Empower yourself to make a difference.
Now that you believe you can do good, you need to empower yourself with the knowledge and tools to do so. You may need to read up on the issues facing your community, about the challenges you’ll need to overcome, develop additional skill sets or identify opportunities. Tip: Start with small steps. Small, achievable goals will keep you motivated and focused.
- –[Tool] Public Library Locator: Books are Good
- –[Service] DigitalLiteracy.gov: Technology Can Increase Your Impact; Empower Others
- –[Service] Grants.gov: Find Funding
- –[Service] Serve.gov: Find Volunteer Opportunities
3. Identify supporters.
It’ll be tempting to do it all on your own–until you burnout. Yes–you’ll need to find people who support your cause, both in mission and in funds. But to avoid burnout, you also need to identify people who support you. Find people who fit into these circles (Google+ pun intended): encouragers, mentors and reminders.
Encouragers: These are people who actively work to lift your spirits and encourage you along your mission. There will be forces that slow you down, days when you are tired, and when you feel you aren’t being effective. These are when your encouragers have your back. Depending on your creed and preference, they may pray for you, send you cards and messages of encouragement, or offer to help when needed.
Mentors: These are people who offer their guidance, experience and insight–especially when it comes to making decisions. They listen and actively challenge you to be the best you can be–to push you beyond your preconceived limits and share opportunities for growth.
Reminders: This may be the most important category. Once you get going, it’s important to have reminders of why you’re doing what you’re doing. For example, if you are working to help kids going through cancer–perhaps you visit children in the hospital with cancer. There’s no better reminder of the importance and impetus of why you’re doing what you’re doing than seeing it face to face.
- –[Tool] Quora: Find Answers; Ask Questions on Mentorship
- –[Tool] HOW TO: Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor
- –[Tool] 5 Questions Every Mentor Must Ask
4. Start somewhere.
We celebrate free agents who have accomplished great things, but many of the best free agents are the unsung heroes. You don’t need a mission statement to be a free agent. You don’t need a 501(c)(3). You just need to start somewhere. Your one small action could encourage someone else to become a free agent. You can be a moving force in building a free agent network for all we know.
- –[Tool] 100 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Community
- –[Service] DailyFeats Mobile App: Doing Good on the Go
- –[Tool] 7 Easy Ways to Do Good Online Beyond Giving
5. Tell your story.
Let others know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This will help you gain supporters while also inspiring others to develop their own inner free agent. There are a number of ways you can tell your story–from talking with your neighbors, sharing information at the dinner table, to starting a blog and using a variety of social media to promote the cause, or pitching the story to your local news media. Tell your story in a variety of ways and learn from others to find what’s most effective. Tip: Think of what media forms the communities you want to reach use and prioritize those.
- –[Tool] Flickr: A Picture is a Thousand Words
- –[Tool] Prezi + Sliderocket = Not Your Ordinary Power Point
- –[Video] How to Use a Flip Video Camera
6. Live your mission.
Some say to live with wild abandon. Let’s tweak that. Live with purposeful abandon. Don’t let fear stop you. Don’t second guess it. Don’t wait for better timing. Do it. Because truly living is what it means to combine passion with purpose.
Do you know any unsung free agents? Tell us about them. We might just feature them on Inspiring Generosity!
flickr credit: qthomasbower