Professionals of all stripes recognize the value in maintaining industry ties though professional organizations and networking. But giving back to our communities often takes a back seat to career advancement. Winston Churchill once said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
Under the current economic climate, many local programs, from youth sports to food banks to service organizations, are in dire need of both financial and volunteer support. Concurrently, local programs are suffering due to budget cutbacks and shrinking financial donations as philanthropists scale back. Ample opportunities exist to donate time to local community programs. Not only does it help improve the community, but volunteering offers opportunities to build relationships with other community leaders. Down the road, when the local market owner is looking for a new payment processor, he or she may recall the person who picked up the donation for the local food bank.
Established service clubs provide a gateway to volunteerism for many professionals. Joining such an organization brings together an instant group of like-minded contacts. A diverse range of organizations exists, so volunteers can become involved in initiatives that mean the most to them.
For example, Rotary International, with 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs worldwide, has volunteers working to combat hunger, eradicate polio, improve health and sanitation, and provide education and job training. The Elks organization is committed to scholarships, youth activities, veterans programs and community investments. Lions Clubs International strives to empower people to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding. Optimist International conducts positive service projects that target youths.
Opportunities to serve are diverse, as are the types of skills needed. Youth programs survive on the shoulders of adult volunteers and run the gamut from tutoring and mentoring to coaching youth sports. Most communities have youth centers or clubs that can be excellent places to search for programs in need.
Don't have time to volunteer? Consider sponsoring a youth sports team or enrichment program. (Your logo just might appear on the uniform worn by the child of your next sales contact.) Local programs also seek assistance with homeless shelters, literacy programs and advocacy services, among other projects.
In giving back to your community, you'll likely find that the more helpful you are the happier you'll be.
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