You already know the main reasons why you should volunteer for a worthy cause: you help those in need and you make a difference in the community or even in the world. But did you know that volunteering also can be good for you as a businessperson?
It’s true. In fact, according to the Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey for 2013, 76 percent of HR executives take a job applicant’s experience as a volunteer into consideration when making a hiring decision and believe it makes them a more desirable candidate. Here are five ways serving as a volunteer can help you grow and expand your brand:
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1. Volunteer work develops your professional skills.
When you put your skills to work for a non-profit organization, it gives you invaluable experience. Whether it’s chairing a fundraiser for a community theater or setting up a new website for an animal shelter, you are doing real work that has value and meaning. You not only get to hone your existing skills but you get to add some new ones to your resume.
You can learn and develop public speaking skills when you introduce a center for homeless youth’s new outreach program, for example. You have a new item for your resume when you take the photos for a church directory. Many volunteers find that they are able to take these new skills back to their employers and apply them to expanded job descriptions.
There is something about volunteering and the new environment it offers that can free you up to try new ideas. When you find that your talents not only work but work well, you will feel more confident in putting them into action at your paying job. According to that Deloitte study, 91 percent of Fortune 500 HR managers agreed that volunteering with a non-profit organization can be an effective way to build business and leadership skills.
Volunteering also offers you the opportunity to “try out” a new career to see if it is right for you without making a long-term commitment. Let’s say you are feeling stuck in your current field of marketing and are considering a completely different career in medicine. By volunteering in a hospital or other healthcare facility, you will get hands-on training and experience. You also will make valuable contacts that could benefit your new career.
2. Volunteering enhances your visibility and fosters good will.
When you volunteer, you have a unique opportunity to let people in your community know about your business. When you do good work within the community, people associate that work with your company and it enhances your reputation.
Promote your volunteer projects on your website and social media by posting photos of your involvement and by providing links to the non-profit’s website. Encourage readers of your company newsletter and blogs to get involved in your volunteer efforts.
It’s not the reason you volunteer, but is a nice outgrowth — customers tend to like and trust companies that volunteer in their communities. According to the Project Management Institute’s 2011 Pulse Survey, nearly 40 percent of a company’s reputation is determined by its perceived social responsibility. And according to a global study conducted by McKinsey and Company, the majority of chief financial officers surveyed said that volunteer programs are one of the most important ways of maintaining a good corporate reputation.
3. You make new business contacts and build existing relationships.
Natural outgrowths of volunteering are the personal connections you make. Whether you perform a volunteer task on your own or as part of a company team, you will be in contact with a wide variety of new and different people from all walks of life. You will find that the bonds that you make with others when you are working on a shared volunteer project are ones that are not easily broken.
You will gain valuable insights and knowledge from these individuals and you will find that they might serve as mentors. Volunteering can be a great networking resource. You also will establish a new group of friends.
When you broaden your sphere of contacts, you never know how that will indirectly benefit your business. You could unknowingly establish a chain of potential clients by word of mouth. In any case, you will strengthen your reputation in the community, which is always good for business.
One way to look at it is that volunteering makes you a more well-rounded person, and, as a result, a more caring and compassionate business owner.
4. Volunteer projects can strengthen loyalty among your team members.
No matter what the size of your organization, you should consider volunteering as a team endeavor. The Deloitte study found that more than half of the employees who volunteer regularly said they feel “very loyal” toward their company and would “likely recommend” their company to a friend. More than half of the millennial generation employees (born after 1981) who volunteered along with fellow employees said they would rate their work culture as “very positive,” as compared with those respondents who did no volunteer work.
Many studies find that employees connect with each other in a way that can’t be otherwise duplicated when they share volunteer projects together. Think of ways you can make group volunteerism part of your company culture. Look for non-profit groups with activities, goals and purposes that reflect your organization’s ideals. Seek ways your employees can get involved in a meaningful way. Then lead by example.
5. Volunteering helps you have a healthier attitude, which can translate into better work performance.
Although we should volunteer for the good it does others, we cannot help but benefit from a sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from giving back to the community. Many of us tend to get stuck in a routine of work, sleep, eat, repeat. When you volunteer for something, it takes you outside of your normal schedule and stretches you mentally and physically.
This stretching is good for your sense of confidence and your self-esteem. A study by the Corporation of National and Community Service found that adults who regularly volunteer have fewer incidents of depression and have a higher- sense of self-worth. In addition, volunteering helps protect individuals from isolation, the study found.
Volunteering may just be a big part of the happiness quotient in our lives. In a study of American adults, researchers from the London School of Economics found that the more people volunteered, the happier they seemed to be. The odds of being “very happy” rose 7 percent among those who volunteered monthly and 12 percent for those who volunteered every two to four weeks when compared with people who did not volunteer. The study found that participants who donated their time to religious organizations reported the greatest impact.
So where should you start when considering a volunteer project? First think about your interests and try to combine them with where there is a need for help. Do you love children? Sports? Animals? Would you like to be hands-on with your efforts or more behind-the scenes? Would you prefer to work outdoors or via your computer? Do you want to travel? What special skills can you offer a project? Which ones would you like to develop?
Still stumped? Here are some organizations that may point you in the right direction.