I participated in panel discussion or students and alumni of Shippensburg University last week. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked to participate in a career development event, but it was the first time that I had an opportunity to speak to students and alumni about being involved in the community.
I’ve always had some level of community involvement, but it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve come to realize that being involved in the community, whether as a business owner or as an employee, is tremendously important for many reasons. Serving represents an opportunity to give back, to expand your personal and professional network, to take on a leadership role, to expand your horizons and to provide additional visibility for your business.
Whether your passion is a literacy program, community theater or economic development, working as a volunteer or as a board member can be a great outlet for that passion. Donating a few hours each month gives you an opportunity to work for a cause in which you believe. It gives you an opportunity to work next to other individuals who share that passion. It also helps those in the community understand that you and your company are actively engaged in giving back. Most of us have benefitted from a helping hand along the way, whether it’s a friend of the family, a member of a fraternal organization or someone from your alma mater.
One of the great benefits of volunteer work is you’ll have an opportunity to work side by side with people of different backgrounds, skills levels, work experience and disciplines. You can gain visibility or yourself and for your firm in the process. One of the by products of meeting such a disparate group of people is that you’ll have the opportunity to build your personal and professional networks.
Whether you’ve been working or 30 days or for 30 years, working for a community cause gives you an opportunity to share your leadership and management skills. You can build these skills whether you’re organizing a community shred day, leading a committee, serving on the board of directors of a local chamber of commerce, or the PTO of your child’s school.
Working with a non-profit can also allow you an opportunity to expand your horizons. While you vocation may be accounting, working for a non-profit can afford you an opportunity to work outside your niche. Looking for a chance to hone your marketing skills? Join the marketing committee. You may get a chance to learn more about email marketing, help design brochures, or speak at a Rotary or Lions Club about why they should support your casue.
Finally, associating yourself with a good cause is good for you and your business. Your company may choose to do some joint marketing or sponsorship with your volunteer organization or it may provide support for an annual campaign.
I had an opportunity to serve on the United Way of Franklin County (UWFC) board for a year. (I had to resign to take a new position in a different area.) My service on other community boards was the reason I was asked to join. I didn’t know it at the time, but UWFC is one of the most sought after board opportunities in the area. My old company is a supporter of the organization, so joining the board was a win/win/win for me, my firm and for the United Way. As a board newcomer, I had an opportunity to serve on the allocations and the marketing committees, so I was able to jump in and contribute right away.
Whether you’re a graduating college senior, a seasoned executive, or a mid-career manager, civic engagement brings value to you, your company and your community. While it’s great to be asked, don’t wait for an invitation. Most non-profits are understaffed and under-resourced, so they’re probably not sitting by the phone waiting for your call.
Most communities have leadership programs that help prepare individuals to serve on volunteer boards. These programs are often affiliated with chambers of commerce, so if you’re having trouble connecting for volunteer opportunities, give your local chamber of commerce a call.
Edward D. Warren is a sales and marketing executive with over 25 years of sales, sales management, coaching, networking and executive leadership experience. Ed is Director of Practice Growth at PBMares. Connect with Ed on LinkedIn.