I recommend that no matter how busy you are, you make time to get involved in your local community. Most people consider big charities as a worthy recipient for their time and money, but community involvement is equally important. This is where *you* live, after all. Helping to make it a safer, more beautiful, brighter and caring place benefits you directly.
Did you realize, however, that being involved in your local community can also be an invaluable source of networking and free marketing for your business? When I began volunteering at the Garden Club at Palm Coast, I did not. As an individual, the opportunity to volunteer fills an empty spot inside of you. Knowing that you are doing something to benefit where you live, or a specific cause, can be a great source of pride. I firmly believe that no matter how bad off we think we are, we always have something to give, and that giving it benefits ourselves as well as others.
Which Charity Should You Pick?
The charity you select can be anything. You might sponsor the Boy Scouts so that their after-school programs are funded and young men continue to have a place to go. Or you might volunteer at an animal shelter, helping after-hours to find homes for many of the animals held there. Libraries are always looking for volunteers, and are involved heavily with other community groups. If you enjoy books, the library might be a good beginning. You could patrol streets and pick up trash on weekends, help clean up the beaches in your area, or volunteer at a newspaper covering community news. You might even decide to join a group that isn’t a charity – like a local social club. All of these things help to enrich your life, and the lives of so many others.
Why Get Involved?
As a business, volunteering can be priceless. The opportunities for networking are extensive. When you volunteer, people get to know you. They see how hard you work, they see the passion inside of you, and they appreciate what you can give – whatever it is. Over time, they become familiar with you as a person, and as a business. Volunteers come from all walks of life, and when another volunteer needs help with something, they’re more likely to think of someone they know through the community. Further, when your group has fund-raising events and needs vendors, or other types of paid support, who do you think they will go to?
Shortly after becoming a member of the Garden Club at Palm Coast, I was offered the opportunity to vend at their Spring Expo. I was thrilled at the opportunity, and was told that they were looking to make a permanent list of reliable vendors. Not only would they do the Spring Expo, but also smaller events. Since then, I’ve sold my pieces at a monthly meeting, participated in the District VI meeting as a vendor, and I have a third event lined up for a sister club in February. That’s four sales opportunities from one club. Through my involvement with a social club – Palm Coast Game Night – I’ve also shown my work at parties hosted by individual members. I can credit most of my sales to these two clubs. If a member didn’t buy a piece, they were directly responsible for putting me in a position where someone else would see me, and either purchase a piece or ask me to work another event.
There are also secondary benefits to volunteering which should never be overlooked. Since becoming a member I’ve met hairdressers, printers, lawyers, mathematicians, engineers – you name it. If I have a legal question, I’m far more likely to go to the lawyer in our group, than a stranger I don’t know. If I need a haircut, or I’m looking to branch into hair accessories, I’ll go to the hairdresser who’s a member of our group. In this way, it’s a benefit for everyone. I get services from people I trust, and they get business as well.
All of this proves that community involvement should be an important part of your strategy for living. The spiritual benefits are innumerable, and should never be ignored. Trust me: I’m not discounting the pride or happiness you’ll get from helping out. I feel it! However, most people overlook the business benefits of community involvement. Now, you’re armed with all the knowledge you need to make a wise decision.
The Garden Club at Palm Coast handles memorials and plantings around Palm Coast, FL, teaches community members about native plantings and ecology in the area, and sponsors a scholarship fund to help the local area high school. Once a year, they have a Spring Expo, which features sales of many garden-related items, booths from outside vendors and food, as well as recognizing a young artist for the year through their poster contest. The second Monday of each month, they host a general meeting and luncheon at the Extension Office in Bunnell. These meetings cover a range of topics such as low-maintenance plants, herb gardening, environmental concerns such as water conservation, or purely aesthetic topics such as flower arranging. They are entirely funded through member contributions, donations and time.
Palm Coast Game Night is a social group based out of Palm Coast, FL. Individuals host a variety of game-related events at member houses or various public locations around town. Sometimes events are themed to a particular holiday, but all revolve around food, fellowship and fun. Games of all kinds abound.