An integral piece of growing your career and network can be getting involved in non-profits. However, the process of choosing the right one for you can be overwhelming.
Here are three steps to choosing the correct cause for you:
1. Identify a cause or mission you feel close to.
2. Choose an organization where you believe in the leadership. They are the people that keep the initiatives moving forward, implement decisions, and build out the board.
3. Choose an organization where you can not only make a difference, but one that will also make a difference in your life. This one tends to be forgotten and may leave you feeling guilty, but it’s important to pick one that helps you connect to something personally or professionally. Best case scenario, it connects with both.
Now that you have chosen a cause, you need to be intentional about your time and energy and make an impact. As with most things in life (maybe everything) – what you put in is what you’ll receive. It is not enough to just be on a board or volunteer. If you want to make a difference for that cause and for you, it is better to be deeply involved with one board versus less involved with ten boards.
There is a catch to getting more involved. You will be asked to do more and more, as well as invited to join other boards. What do you do in those cases? It’s important to be selfish and learn how to say no. Boards are going to ask for two our most limited resources: our time and our money. Remember there needs to be a personal and/or professional benefit for you if you are going to be giving up some of your most limited resources. Seth Godin, best-selling author and blogger, wrote a great book called “The Dip” where he highlights “winners are quitters” meaning they know when to quit. Your time is limited, so make sure you are taking care of yourself before you are charitable to others. This will actually allow you to be more valuable to the cause that you have chosen!
Anson Hall, a former teammate and friend of mine, is a great example of someone who grew personally and professionally after getting involved in leadership on non-profit boards.
Anson has a passion for Cleveland as well as the sales and marketing industry. Throughout his career, he identified organizations that combine those three passions and he got involved. He is now President of the Sales and Marketing Executives of Cleveland (SME) and Co-Chair of the Awareness Committee for The Cleveland Sports Commission. Based on the relationships Anson made on these boards, he saw success personally and professionally. The connections Anson made through his Sports Commission involvement gave him the exposure and credibility he needed to get his new role with Destination Cleveland. Although I was sorry to lose Anson as a teammate, he is a great example of the outcome and benefits of getting involved in leadership on non-profit boards.