Impact volunteering for professionals

Civic and community involvement, while always popular with a segment of the adult population, appears to be receiving more attention recently in the ranks of professional and college graduates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that approximately 64.3 million people in the U.S. volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2010 and September 2011. 

The BLS reports that individuals with higher levels of educational attainment engaged in volunteer activities at higher rates than did those with less education. Among persons age 25 and over, 42.4 percent of college graduates volunteered, compared with 18.2 percent of high school graduates and 9.8 percent of those with less than a high school diploma. There are obvious benefits for individual volunteers beyond altruistic ends that professionals are recognizing. There are advantages for their careers as well.

Many professionals recognize involvement in community would be worthwhile if they had the time. And many have great plans for how they might get involved or which group of people they’d most like to help. However, analysis paralysis often sets in when such professionals try to find the time to devote to some worthy cause.

For professionals to become motivated enough to make time for volunteering efforts to give back to their communities, they must:

  1. Be encouraged and directed toward worthwhile causes
  2. Feel strongly about the cause they decide to support
  3. Have an opportunity to become involved in a practical program that fits their lifestyle
  4. Be willing and able to make enough time to demonstrate value
  5. See direct benefits not only for the cause, their organization and for themselves

Volunteering must be more than feeling as though one has performed a civic duty; more than putting in volunteer hours to satisfy a corporate mandate; and certainly more than donating money to a corporate sponsored program. Significant and satisfying volunteer involvement is about making an impact in a visible positive manner that makes a tangible difference for others and the community.

How does a busy professional begin to become involved in worthwhile volunteering efforts? The first step toward is to evaluate your own expertise and determine how that expertise may best benefit others. Then become familiar with various volunteering programs promoted or supported by your company or organization, professional affiliations you may belong to, or simply going online to do a search for volunteer causes that interest you in your geographical area.

For example, commercial real estate brokers must have significant knowledge of building and business developments in their local communities, meet often with growing and vital companies that own or occupy space, advise other professionals and executives on various real estate matters and be well connected to important representatives in the business community. That kind of expertise and the resultant strong network of contacts can be valuable to various volunteer organizations that have ongoing needs to develop financial and community support.

Serving as a corporate development committee member for the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) over the past five years has enabled me to leverage business relationships to support their cause. We have raised significant financial support and community awareness for the DSF to assist many Denver Public School students to prepare for and attend college. Direct tangible impact of these efforts has yielded $13 million to date assisting over 25,000 students. The benefits of such efforts have not only been to help students but increase and expand the network of our team at NKFFR. Other examples where CRE experience may apply are for a broker to use his or her knowledge of the office and industrial market to evaluate commercial buildings in the interest of a non-profit or to help create a business plan that will raise capital.

These examples illustrate how a business professional can effect true positive impact upon their community as well as broaden their network to benefit their business and associates. What is your expertise? If you are a CPA, you can conduct the books for a particular group; as an attorney you may help review or create important legal documents. If you specialize in sales you may do much to help promote important or raise support for causes that you know are worthwhile.

Regardless of your profession, if you increase your active involvement and presence in the community beyond your specific professional role, you stand to effect positive change that can benefit many. Meanwhile, you broaden your network developing real face to face relationships that go far beyond technology based social networking.

Professionals in all specialties may gain much by volunteering in endeavors beyond the specific activities of their jobs. They often feel good about the positive effects they have upon their communities, build face to face relationships and networks and likely gain emotional and related health benefits that can tie to volunteering. Additionally, there may be personal fulfillment that can either balance or enhance professional satisfaction.

Categories: Economy/Politics, Management & Leadership