You work in Corporate America. How could you possibly change the world?

As I mentioned before, I am taking part in the 31 Days to a Brand New Blog challenge. I joined the challenge late, so I'm catching up with old assignments as I begin writing posts for the site. This post is a combination of Day 4's assignment: Writing a List Post and Day 9's assignment: Write a "How to" Post.

If you are anything like me, this is the question that sometimes pops up like the little devil on your left shoulder in a cartoon. For those of us do-gooders out here making our way through Corporate America, there are times when you feel as though you aren’t truly committed to change simply because you don’t spend the bulk of your work week with the “right” type of organization, whether it be a social venture, non-profit, or government agency.

But the reality is that it's still possible to find fulfillment by focusing your energy outside of your 9-5 (well 9-5ish) job on making an impact in the local - or even the global - community. Depending on the amount of time you have available on evenings and weekends, there are many ways you can make a difference. Here are four that require more effort than writing a check:

Read about the issues you care most about.

Knowledge is power, and the best ally a cause or organization can have is an empowered and educated advocate. Sharing the information you acquire brings more awareness to causes and, ultimately, more support. Don’t underestimate the power in that.

Sign up to volunteer with a local organization.

Some people are often discouraged from looking for volunteer opportunities because of the level of commitment they assume to be involved. Organizations are always looking for support ranging from a few hours at an event to a few days a week for an entire year. You have complete freedom to determine how much time you are able to give. Most importantly, you probably have skills that are much needed somewhere.

With the current state of the economy, volunteers are more important than ever for non-profits that have had to cut or eliminate salaries. A recent study by the Corporation for National and Community Service estimates the value of a volunteer’s time be $20.85 per hour. This value varies depending on the state with DC having the highest average dollar value of $32.74 per hour. That’s a hefty bill for most organizations, especially those whose operations are highly dependent on volunteers.

Spearhead community initiatives for your company.

This is a great way to give back to the community while building your network at your firm and helping your company's brand. Your company may already have a strong presence in the community. If so, that's fantastic. Do some research into which organizations receive the most time and money. If none of those organizations interest you or if your company currently doesn't do much, spearhead something new! Some ideas: gather a group of colleagues to particate in a charity walk, organize a monthly visit to a local homeless shelter to serve breakfast, or raise money for a local organization (possibly getting your company to match whatever you raise).

Join a non-profit board.

There was a YNPNDC twitter chat held in June - moderated by Rosetta Thurman and Allison Jones - discussing the importance of young non-profit professionals joining boards for their own professional development. I believe that it's equally as important for those of us outside the sector, if not more, to get involved with non-profit boards so that we can remain abreast of what is going on and utilize our resources outside of the sector to resolve issues. Last year I had the opportunity to join the board of the Cultural Academy for Excellence, and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

Interested but not quite sure how to join one? Check out the recap of the twitter chat I mentioned as well as Rosetta Thurman's post on how to join a non-profit board.

For those of you in the corporate world, how do you keep yourself connected with the community? For those of you in the non-profit world, how else would you like to see individuals engaging with the community?