A great way to grow your business is through volunteering. I can hear you asking, “How is volunteering a marketing activity?” It’s not – entirely. Volunteering is about helping the community, giving something back and feeding your soul.
However, it also gives you a chance to meet new people, people outside your current circle. We all get into a rut, particularly when we’re in business. We don’t have time to socialize and meet new people. We’re so focused on our business that, except for our family, we may only come in contact with clients, colleagues and suppliers.
Volunteering forces you to meet an entirely new group of people. And you are meeting them in a non-threatening way. You’re not trying to sell them something; you’re working together for a common goal. The people you volunteer with have a chance to get to know the real you, before they learn about your business.
As you work together, learning about each other is a natural part of the process. At some point, someone will ask what you do. So tell them. You’re still not selling to them, just answering a question. If this person needs your service, or knows someone who does, they are more likely to consider you because you already have a relationship.
What type of volunteering should you do? If your business provides a service that charities or non-profits need, by all means offer it for free. Accountants often provide a certain amount of pro bono services as part of their professional designation.
However, you don’t need to be providing your professional services for free in order to benefit from volunteering. In fact, it can even be a negative. If you are spending 40 or more hours a week on your business, you may find adding some extra hours doing the same thing as a volunteer too draining.
Instead, try doing something completely different. If you’re a wedding planner, don’t volunteer to organize a charity dinner; try working in the office or helping with publicity. If you’re a bookkeeper, don’t hunker down with the charity’s finances; offer to paint faces at the children’s Christmas party. Doing something completely different gives you a chance to learn new skills and prevents you from burning out.
Where should you volunteer? That’s up to you. The Chamber of Commerce will have a many volunteer opportunities that will introduce you to the business community. Your children’s school may need help in the classroom or with fund raising. Most major diseases have an organization which does fund raising, public awareness campaigns and community support. Pick one that interests you and give them a call. Odds are they will be thrilled to hear from you.
A word of caution: don’t join an organization just for the purpose of increasing sales. If you are working for a cause you don’t believe in, people will sense it. Choose a volunteer activity that has meaning for you. Go in thinking that even if you never get any business from this activity you won’t mind because of the good you are doing in the world.
That’s the end of this 10-part series. Thanks for sticking it out with me. Tomorrow join me for a profile of a successful baby boomer entrepreneur who left a tenured position at a university to start her business. Talk about a leap of faith! After that, watch for my series, “The Biggest Mistakes Businesses Make With Their Websites and How to Avoid Them“.
Andrea J. Stenberg