Volunteering has for many decades been a way for aspiring socialites, self-made millionaires, traditionally employed professionals climbing the ladder and Freelance consultants looking to meet future clients to expand their networks, build strategic relationships, obtain social credibility, learn new skills and sometimes even support a worthy cause. Volunteering is the best way to do well by doing good and the money you donate is tax-deductible.
The Machiavellian among us may choose an organization that appears to have either the best business networking or most social-climbing potential (or both!), but I recommend that those in search of a good volunteer opportunity start with a review of causes that are important to you. Some prefer social service agencies, others are inspired by arts organizations and still others gravitate to religious or healthcare institutions. If you’re not sure where to start, try lending your services to your alma mater, your children’s school, or your local Rotary Club. Rotary Club
Board service is at the top of the volunteer pyramid and not everyone is invited to participate at that level. However, most not-for-profit organizations plan a big annual fundraising event and extra day-of-event volunteer help is sometimes needed. That could be your opportunity to see a snap shot of the organization, as well as the event committee, up close, in action and celebrating the vision and mission.
Joining a day-of-event subcommittee is often a good place to start your volunteer journey, so that you can meet and work with one or two board members, meet the executive director and learn about the qualifications and possibility of joining the board. Be advised that many boards come with an expected level of financial support that can stretch into four-figure sums (and beyond). Visit the organization’s website and speak with the administrative assistant about short-term volunteer opportunities.
There are also corporate boards on which one may serve, but those groups are for the very well-connected and influential. A path to corporate board service might begin with relationships developed during volunteer board service, but one still must have very formidable professional credentials and superior job titles. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you contemplate your role as a volunteer:
Choose the right organization
You will feel much happier donating skills and money to an organization whose mission you strongly support and that should guide your choice. Your work on the board should be for you a pleasure and a privilege and not a chore.
Take your commitment to the board or committee seriously if you expect to be taken seriously by the influencers you hope to impress. Be qualified to do the work. Make the time to complete your pro bono work on time. Be enthusiastic, if not passionate, and a good team player. If you are sufficiently fortunate to be asked to chair a committee, graciously share credit for a job well done with your committee members.
While your volunteering may have at its core your professional or social agenda, you must nonetheless approach your volunteer service as someone who wants to contribute and make a positive difference. Keep the organization’s mission and goals in mind, along with your own. Raise your hand when leadership opportunities present themselves. Demonstrate how your unique skill set brings benefits to the organization.
Be a passionate visionary
As a board member, it will be your responsibility to prepare the organization to realize long-term goals that accurately reflect and enable the vision and mission. Suggest that strategic planning be done, so that key staff members can join with the board and map out possible strategies for the future. In any case, bring your creative energy and practical insights to every board meeting.
Be a team player
Make yourself look good and create the conditions wherein your fellow board and committee members will find satisfaction in their board service and find more success for yourself as you do. Inspire fellow board and committee members to do their best work by modeling that behavior yourself. Always acknowledge the good work and dedication of others on your committee and the board.
When you follow the guidelines detailed above, you will distinguish yourself as a superior board member who is a real asset to the organization. Influencers who are in a position to refer those with your specialty will no doubt be eager to refer a colleague whose work they can personally endorse and your Freelance consultancy will reap the rewards.
Thanks for reading,