Sunday, September 22, 2013

Volunteering: What’s In It for Your Business?

Volunteering might be the best or the worst thing you’ve ever done for your business because it might be building or destroying your brand simultaneously.

Have you ever heard the saying “give a busy person something to do and it will get done”? I’ve been volunteering as long as I can remember; in my youth and now in my professional life. Volunteering as an adult has a different set of challenges and expectations that are not always simple or “neat”. Depending on who you ask, you’d find differing opinions on whether volunteering is an asset or a distraction; for me it depends on what you hope to gain.

Perhaps carving out time away from work when hits ones pocketbook or one’s perceived ability to get ahead at work is what keeps some individuals from volunteering? However, as a “career volunteer” I’ve learned that the benefits long out way the sacrifices volunteers make when creatively sharing their most valued asset; time.

Still a non-believer, how about some examples?

  1. Have you ever hired or recommended an individual for employment based on your knowledge of how engaged they were as a volunteer?

I’ve recommended or hired folks based on my perceptions of their engagement as a volunteer. When we started the business, I reached out to a variety of contacts, many of which were folks I’d known only as a volunteer.  My response was often, “O, I know how hard you will work for free, so I have no problem recommending you to someone that might need your services”.

  1. Has there been a time when you could connect a client to an organization, agency or business that would benefit their goals and objectives as a result of someone you’d met via a civic group or other type of non profit organization?

‘Ya know… that’s called NETWORKING- when you can connect dots, you add value to your contacts. How often do you hear the phrase, “call Jane, she knows everyone.” Networking is still alive and thriving in organizations like local chambers of commerce and civic clubs because those are groups that share an interest in relationships and seek ways to cultivate strong roots within their community.

  1. What about “sneaky learning”?

As a teacher I deemed sneaky learning as the process of acquiring knowledge when you did not even plan to “learn”. Over the years I’ve heard rotary speakers on a variety of topics. By listening to these speakers, I’ve unintentionally left meetings a little smarter about my local and global community. Gathering different and relevant perspectives helps to focus ones vision and direction; it might even make them a more creative problem solver. Recently I was tasked with a project at work that initially seemed overwhelming, but when I thought the message this organization was seeking to define in a product I realized their message had been conveyed by several speakers I’d heard in the past year. My creativity kicked in, easily finding products that conveyed their message.

  1. Brand Ambassadors- for all of those that engage or do not engage as a volunteer they are unintentionally defining the brand of the business they represent. Consider that volunteering might be the best or the worst thing you’ve ever done for your business because it might be building or destroying your company brand simultaneously.

Thursday was the annual Savor Apex event, a member benefit that showcases some of the fine choices we have for culinary delights within the Apex Chamber. I’d been asked to share my perspective about the chamber board responsibilities with a prospective new board member. Beyond the expected discussion about the investment of time away from business, I found myself providing a compelling example of business branding.

Immediately I referenced a board member from EMC standing next to me, stating that when I think of large business interest in Apex I think of businesses like EMC. Why? I’ve served on the chamber board, Apex HS AOIT board, and the education committee for years with individuals from this company. The engagement of these individuals has left me with a positive view of EMC as a business supporting their community. Each of these employees has gone to bat for community projects and support for business development; EMC in turn has created time in their schedule to be flexible and accommodate time away from work. Additionally EMC has valued the perspective gained by their employees for the allocation of resources in their business community; such as increasing donations to our annual Book Bag Bonanza.

Many large, mid size and small businesses in Apex have a corporate culture that is supportive of a variety of community projects. By adding a personal story to the face of a business, those businesses that are engaged in their community with a strong base of volunteers will stay top of mind thus creating a strong brand identity for their business. In turn, those individual volunteers will build trust within the community. So, before you pass on an opportunity to volunteer, think about the trust and value another individual sees for your time and talents when asking you to become an active voice within the business community; say YES! You might be surprised what you learn in the process.

No comments:

Post a Comment