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For lots of people, volunteering is part of their plan for the future. Not Charlene Butler. The independent management consultant already makes it a priority to divide her workdays straight down the middle: 50% is devoted to her career as a consultant, which allows her to spend the other 50% purely on volunteer work.

Charlene’s consulting centres on evaluation, and helping public organizations and non-profits (including REACH Edmonton and the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters) assess and quantify their accomplishments. This is particularly useful when it comes to securing funding. No matter who’s doing the lending, Charlene says, funders “want to know their money is actually making a difference. In all honesty, they won’t keep funding things just because the report says they met with 100 youth and 100 youth say they feel better. It’s got to be more than that now. It’s got to be more robust.”

Volunteering, on the other hand, gives Charlene a chance to engage her community in a variety of ways. She’s a representative on the University of Alberta Senate, a board member on the Auto Insurance Rate Board, and active with her local rotary club. And after her son struggled with mental illness, Charlene joined the board of the Mental Health Foundation, too (she’s now the vice-chair). Lending her evaluation skills to the Council Initiative on Public Engagement gave Charlene yet another opportunity to assist an organization doing important work. “You’ve got to get in there,” she says. “You’ve got to quit complaining, and actually try to make things better.”

Why does she do it? “Because I’m selfish and it makes me feel good,” Charlene says with a laugh. “It really does. I don’t care about money. I just want to know that at the end of the day, what I did made a difference.”

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