Donating time to worthy causes is a winning tactic for business development. I spend about 10-15% of my time giving to others. In fact, I consider it to be a part of my business model. It might sound counter intuitive, volunteering your time to get business, but it works!
How to Gain Respect
Back in 2008 when I switched my professional services to social media consulting, social media apps were considered children’s toys. Few businesses took them seriously and it was a daily uphill battle to convince others that my skill set was valuable.
Looking at the movers and shakers in my community, I noticed that the most respected people did a lot for it. They gave of their time and money. They supported and participated in a multitude of ways. I didn’t have much money so I couldn’t buy access, I had to think of other ways. If my field wasn’t respected, I decided that *personally* I could be. This was the beginning my long-term approach to building my business by impressing people with my work ethic and character.
Why Should You Give Away Time
Giving to others feels damn good. Think of a time you’ve helped someone in a way that fairly effortless for you. Maybe you carried a person’s bag when their hands were full, you changed the settings on their annoying phone or computer, or knew the answer to a question that had been bugging them. What’s easy for you is often near impossible for others. I love the way it feels when I set-up a Facebook page or fix a fatal website error for them. It can be the difference between that business existing or the non-profit being able to provide service. What’s little to me is HUGE for others. It’s easy and the impact is so large, I just can’t resist.
Community is made up of people. They don’t run well if we don’t participate. The African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” can be applied to society as well. I love my home and if I can help others live better lives, I will.
Others will see what you do in a whole new way. When I get to help people using my skill set, they are able to witness what I know. They see me diagnose a problem, fix it, my organization and professionalism. These are happy customers. So many people I’ve helped were educated as to what I do for a living and are excited to tell their friends and colleagues what I do and how I can help.
Each project I’ve worked on or group I’ve been apart of lives on my LinkedIn profile or on my resume. You don’t have to “toot your own horn” but it’s a benefit of that donation. It shows others what my values are, where I’m willing to give of my time, what’s important to me, and what I’ll do for no pay. It says a lot about who I am as a person.
It’s great karma, if you’re into that. Karma also comes in the form of referrals. I never know where my good deed will come back to me but, like a boomerang, it always comes back around.
How to Get Involved
- Look at your local newspaper and online listings. Non-profits, service clubs, and neighborhood groups use those listings to get attention for their events and causes.
- Ask your friends what they’re into. They’re your friends for a reason and you probably have similar interests. They’ll know you well and what you like to do. Crowdsource for information and you’ll get some amazing opportunities. (That’s what I did below.)
- You can do an online search for local non-profits and service clubs. Take a look at their websites, missions, projects, and members. You’ll be able to find openings with organizations that have similar values to yours.
- Call 211 (U.S. & Canada only) or visit their website 211.org. It’s a United Way sponsored service and they bill themselves as “the most comprehensive source of local human and social services information in the U.S. and most of Canada.” Not only will you learn a ton about what’s available in your community, you can share it with others, and find a place that suits you to donate time.
- Go to your local library. These aren’t just places for books, they offer so much information regarding charities, events, education, resources and more.
Make Sure It Doesn’t Take Over Your Life
- Figure out your priorities. Think about what’s important to you: education, eliminating homelessness, LGBTQ+ issues, mental health … where’s your passion? Volunteering your time can be taxing so I recommend the cause(s) be significant to you.
- Set boundaries. How much time do you really have? Ask right up front what the commitment of time, labor, or responsibilities will be. When you get the details, it’s okay to say it’s too much for what you are able to do. We’d all rather you be honest about your capabilities then get in over your head and bail. Please don’t give until it hurts. Take care of yourself.
- No is a sentence. Practice saying it. Practice more. You do not have to explain yourself.
- Be a supporter. You may not be able to share your money or time with a cause you believe in. That doesn’t mean you have nothing to give. Ask to be included in the mailing list so that you can share the information with your social network. Your amplification of their message is also important.
Part of My Business Plan
My values don’t revolve around money or profit. I do own my own business but money isn’t in the top 5 most important things in my life. I want to live my best life and encourage others to do the same.