I spent two days volunteering this week in United Way’s Character Playbook booth at Super Bowl Experience, which, honestly, I really wasn’t looking forward to. I’m a pretty hard-core introvert, so the idea of interacting with hordes of strangers for 6+ hours sounded like a masochistic exercise. In spite of this, deep down I knew it would be worthwhile.
I was right.
There are two primary activities in the booth: the virtual reality (VR) experience, and the photo booth. Day 1 I spent on the VR experience, helping people get set up with the “game” and then taking care of the equipment. Day 2 I changed it up and took pictures in the photo booth. They were both fun, but the photo booth was for sure the better volunteer experience.
Why? I think it has a lot to do with what a person gets out of it.
The VR experience is a TON of fun, but when you finish it the fun is over, and you simply go back to real life. On the other hand, with the photo booth, when people were done, they got to see a little bit of magic: there they were in a photo with one of eight NFL players, as though they were best pals, just hanging out and having a good ol’ time. You make a small investment of time and end up with something lasting that makes your day a little bit better. You get something lasting out of it.
To me, this is a parallel to how we all decide to spend our time and money in real life. I can spend on myself, and for my own entertainment or for my own “stuff.” OR I can invest some of what I have in my community, by volunteering or making charitable gifts. When I do that, I create a little bit of magic myself: I make things a little better for others; I make lasting change; I help pave pathways out of poverty, toward prosperity and equity for all. When I do that, we ALL get something lasting out of it.
Mark Egge is the senior manager of Prospect Development at Greater Twin Cities United Way. His work helps ensure that United Way has the information it needs to raise money and help the community.