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How Can Volunteering Help My Business?

With today marking the start of National Volunteer Week, you may be thinking about volunteering. If you’ve ever done volunteer work before, you already know the personal rewards that come from giving your time to help others, but did you know that volunteering can also help your business? The benefits will vary, depending on the type of activity, but here are a few ideas for you to think about.

volunteering

Volunteering can be a great way to meet new people, so look for the type of opportunity that will expose you to people in your target market. As an example, the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington (my area) holds a number of major charitable events each year, including a Christmas Charity Auction & Social. One year I helped out by organizing the items sold at the auction, and you wouldn’t believe how many real estate agents I met in that one evening! If you’re into home staging, downsizing, or even office organization, this type of event could be just right for you.

Organizing your own charitable event can be an effective way of gaining publicity for your business. When I worked with another business to coordinate a community garage sale as a fundraiser for breast cancer research, we got a really nice write-up in our local newspaper.

Of course, volunteering doesn’t have to be limited to specific events. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of nonprofits who need your expertise but can’t fit your fees into their limited budgets. If you’re a new organizer and you’ve got the organizing skills but limited professional experience, volunteering is a great way to gain experience and testimonials or references, as well as an opportunity to take some Before and After Photos for your portfolio. Check out VolunteerMatch for opportunities in the US or Volunteer.ca for opportunities in Canada. For other countries, see Energize’s list of volunteering websites.

You’re also not restricted to working with established charities. As a professional organizer, you probably receive inquiries from many individuals who need your help but genuinely can’t afford to pay for your services. If your schedule allows, you might want to take on a certain number of projects without payment, as a public service. In addition to the benefits described above, this is a great way to create goodwill in your community. Pro bono work is often associated with the legal profession, but is becoming common in other service industries as well. To avoid being taken advantage of, you may wish to define clear criteria as to who will be eligible for this service and how much time you will give them.

Another form of volunteering ties in with my last post, and that is speaking at community events. Although these are less likely to lead to paying business than speaking to business groups, it’s another way of getting your name out there and showing your commitment to helping others.

By no means is this a complete list of the business benefits to volunteering, or of ways you can get involved. If you’ve got some other ideas, why not share them in the comments section?

Photo credit: Beth Kanter

A former professional organizer, I’m now a Website Design and Care Specialist. I love helping others succeed by sharing the knowledge and insight I’ve gained through marketing my own business for over 15 years! When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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3 Comments

  1. Jacki Hollywood Brown on April 20, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I would also like to mention volunteering in your industry association. Working with others in your field on a committee allows you to get to know each other in a professional way. This can lead to referrals or something more formal such as a partnership.
    By developing such relationships you can learn even more about your industry, who the movers & shakers are and where to find resources to build your own business.
    Volunteering is a win-win experience.

  2. Julie Bestry on April 21, 2009 at 12:17 am

    I’d like to echo your coda about volunteering to speak for charitable groups. People who tend to volunteer a lot of their own time for charities often find that organization and time management present problems–the more they do, the more they want to do. Perhaps long ago, we’d have figured that volunteers for community organizations would be all retirees or “housewives” (as the expression went), but nowadays, more and more people are busy professionals with kids, seeking to be good role models by also volunteering. People are busy!

    By volunteering to speak to charitable organization boards, volunteers and staff about organizing issues that face them *at the non-profit as well as at home*, you’re helping them…and helping them help others. Which not only bathes you in a warm glow, but also allows you to expose your expertise to the kinds of warmhearted clients who can be a special joy with whom to work.

  3. Janet Barclay on April 21, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Jacki, thank you for that suggestion! Being involved with your professional association, whether it’s at the chapter level or nationally, provides a fantastic opportunity to connect with and learn from industry leaders.

    Julie, I hadn’t considered public speaking as a way to share your expertise in less time, but of course it is – great point! And even though it will take time to prepare your material, you’ll be able to reuse it with future groups, modifying it as required to meet the needs of the audience.

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