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Effective Strategies is devoted to sharing ideas that can improve
your business performance. Last issue, we looked at business lessons to be learned
by volunteering your time. This issue,
we give tips and tricks for creating a successful volunteer experience.
If you missed the last issue,
click here to read it.
Feel free to tell anyone who can benefit from this
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Marketing Your Company through Community Involvement
This is part two of a two-part series on volunteering as a business strategy.
In this issue, I discuss tips and tricks for creating a successful volunteer
experience. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it, and Iíve done both.
Here are ideas that will help you develop your marketing strategy through
- Follow your heart. Find an organization that matches your
interests and serves the community in a manner you admire. Finding time
to volunteer can create long hours as you scramble to make up the time
you take away from your business operations. You will feel less burdened
by the extra time crunch if you have a heart for the organizationís
mission and the cause they serve.
- Volunteer strategically. Consider organizations with board
members whose businesses serve the same clients you do. For instance,
your target client may include building contractors so you may choose to
volunteer with an organization such as Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding
Together, or your local Home Builders Association. Working alongside
your target client is a great way to build a solid relationship, and
people are more likely to do business with someone they know well.
- Do your homework on the organization. Are they using
donations wisely and are they well run? Will it be good for your
business to align with them? What does the general public think about
that organization? Your potential customer may choose to do business
with you (or not) depending on who you align yourself with. The last
thing you want to do is align your reputation or company image with an
organization that gets caught in a scandal.
- Volunteer in roles that will show off your character and
abilities. Will they use your time and talents the way you want them
used? If you hate to ask for donations and thatís all they want you to
do, you will be miserable. On the other hand, if other committee members
or board members see you doing your best work in a role you love, they
will be more likely to recommend you. There are plenty of volunteer
opportunities out there. Pick one where you shine.
- Make sure you are a good fit. Organizational dynamics have
everything to do with your success as a volunteer. If you like a
collaborative type of leadership style, an executive director who makes
all the decisions for you will dampen your spirit. However, some people
prefer to be told what the direction is and what to do. Itís okay if you
donít know which style you prefer at first ó feel free to experiment. If
you find out that you arenít a great fit due to personalities,
philosophical differences, leadership styles, or whatever, RUN! Be
honest with the organization, but most of all, be true to yourself.
Volunteering in the right organization is rewarding but the wrong fit
for you will be pure punishment.
- Make sure that you meet all your commitments. People make
judgments about how we operate professionally by how they see us work as
a volunteer. If you accidentally over-commit, get help quick. Itís not a
crime to ask for help ó itís a tragedy if you let your commitments slip
and damage your reputation.
- Give the organization a time limit. Set a length of time that
you will work with them. Consider committing for one year at a time if
you are working at a board, leadership, or committee level. Revisit your
commitment at the end of the year. Planning your volunteer time on an
annual basis when you are making other life plans and goals helps you
achieve balance in all the aspects of your life.
- Volunteer where you are valued and appreciated. Not every
organization deserves you. Smart volunteer organizations understand this
formula: Volunteers like to contribute where their ideas are valued.
They are likely to stay where they believe in the mission and are
actively included. Organizations retain volunteers by creating buy-in
and that means allowing them to participate in the decision-making and
- If you have a spouse, make sure they are understanding and
supportive. While it is ideal for a husband and wife to volunteer
together, thatís not always possible because of different interests,
preferred types of roles, and family responsibilities. Volunteer
responsibilities can put pressure on a family when the hours increase
close to an event or when meetings take place during normal family time.
Always discuss the volunteer roleís task and time load with your spouse
before your commit. When they buy in and understand why you feel
compelled to participate in the community, they are more understanding
and supportive. Deep down, they are really proud of what youíre doing
and you should be too!
Not plugged into an organization you love? Start shopping for one now. The
sooner you find an organization that aligns with your professional goals, the
happier and more successful you'll be professionally
|Carrie Perrien Smith is a professional speaker,
published writer, and owner of Soar with Eagles, a Rogers, Arkansas-based
company. She is a publishing, communication, and training industry veteran
whose corporate career spans 15 years, split between Texas Instruments and
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Her company offers training, book publishing,
conference management, and consulting services as well as a professional