I don’t know about you but I’ve been a volunteer since I was 12. I was set a good example as both of my parents volunteered in one capacity or another for most of my life. It started with helping in Sunday school, graduated to various school projects and the local hospital. Then it carried in to my children’s nursery school, elementary school and Guiding. I feel better when I volunteer. I’m sure I give as good as I get but now volunteering has taken on a new twist – networking and the impact it can have on your business.
I never thought about it like that before. It wasn’t about building anything other than whatever project or association I was involved with. I just wanted to help. I just like being involved and offering skills that might be useful. That might sound a bit Pollyanna if you’ve never been a volunteer but to those who have the bug you’ll understand what I mean. It’s just a part of our core being though I’m sure it feeds a bit of that quiet little ego we keep in check. Nobody is immune to the little charge you get when someone says thank you!
Before I first started my business back in June, I began to reach out to organizations that I thought I might be able to help and who also fit my ethics and morals. There’s no point in volunteering if you can’t get behind the cause. One of the organizations I reached out to was the Halton Fresh Food Box program. I learned about it through my church and the ideals behind it intrigued me. Provide fresh and local produce at affordable prices to people in the community who might not otherwise have access. Hmmmm …. interesting.
I’ve also got a background in not for profit so I know what organizations go through in getting volunteers. This seemed like an organization that not only could I help but aligned with my belief in healthy eating and helping others. Check, check. For one reason or another nothing moved forward until two weeks ago when I received a call from the organization to come in for a meeting. Sure says I. And after a great meeting where I had the chance to meet the other members of the Board, I was asked to join the Board as a Member at Large to head up communications for the Halton Fresh Food Box program.
I’ve never considered joining a Board before or what that actually means. Sometimes I forget that I’m actually an adult and old enough to hold a position like this. I’ve always thought members of a board must be high level professionals who have lots of experience to offer an organization and I must confess, it’s taking me a bit of time to realize that I am that kind of person. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that I’m Board material. It was a bit of a watershed moment in my entrepreneurial experience as well.
Part of the discussion with the current Director, Sue Brady, was about how I now see this volunteer role as an opportunity to get exposure for my business. Never having been a volunteer and an entrepreneur at the same time, this is my first foray in to business purposed volunteering. She completely understood and I breathed a sigh of relief. Volunetnworking is not the low down dirty idea I thought it was. It’s an opportunity to share your professionals skills, add to your project profile and give back to your community in a meaningful way. Phew.
So what’s my point? If you’re an entrepreneur and you are looking for a way to get more exposure for your business and expand your network, consider volunteering. The caveat is that you must believe in what you are volunteering for. Growing your business absolutely cannot be the sole purpose of volunetworking. Your heart will not be in it and you will not be doing the organization any service which is the real point of volunetworking. By giving back and helping another organization grow and succeed, you can’t help but have a positive impact on your business. Win, win.