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Why Giving Back Is Good For Business

by Ann Bevans on June 29, 2010

I’m not a soup kitchen kind of girl.

When people say, “I’m going to volunteer!” isn’t that the first thing you think of?  It is for me. And while I’m deeply moved by the enormous difficulties homeless people face, I just don’t see myself in latex gloves and a shower cap dishing out shepherd’s pie. It’s just not my thing. Noise, strangers, food. You get the idea.

And Habitat for Humanity?  Let’s just say I can’t be trusted with a nail gun.

Fortunately, there are as many ways to help others in your community as there are problems in the world, and everyone knows that problems aren’t in short supply.

Image: Walter Lim, Creative Commons

So what’s my thing?

I teach English through the Literacy Council of Montgomery County.  See, I was an English major back in the day, and to me there isn’t a greater instrument for world peace than the written word.

I have this crazy idea that if we all understand each other – not just in a shouty Sunday morning talk show kind of way – but with nuance, that we really can save the world.

Or, if you prefer, just save a couple of people in your neighborhood from the terror and isolation of not being able to read street signs or talk to the check out girl in the grocery store.

I have another thing, and that’s helping women who have breast cancer.

I’m a survivor myself, and it sucks as hard as you think it does.  I got lucky one day when I ran into the chair of the board of directors of the American Breast Cancer Foundation.

She said, “We need a marketing person on our board!”

I said, “Funny story – I had a mastectomy a week and half ago.  Where do I sign up?”

The American Breast Cancer Foundation does wonderful work providing screening, biopsies, and even assistance with chemotherapy drugs, for uninsured and underinsured women.

How have these things helped me in my business?

  • I’ve made tons of new friends who have helped me expand my network
  • I’ve had the opportunity to practice my skills
  • I’ve been able to demonstrate my abilities (not just describe them) to people who might be in a position to hire or recommend me
  • I’ve gotten to try things I might not otherwise pay attention to, like reading financial statements and interviewing executives
  • I’ve become a better leader
  • It feels really, really good

The last item can’t be overstated.

I’m an entrepreneur with a husband, a three year-old, and a whole team of people to manage.  Some days I think, “I should cancel English class today.  I just have too much to do.”  But when my students smile and say, “Thanks for teaching today!”  – let’s just say I get more than I give.

To get started, ask yourself: what are you really passionate about?

Maybe you love knitting.  You can make prayer shawls for cancer patients.

Love kids? Be a big brother or big sister.

Gardening? Organize a community garden, or sign up for the appropriate committee in your homeowners’ association.

There are a thousand things you can do.

What have I missed?  How has volunteering made you a better business person?

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Ann Bevans is a writer, graphic designer and web developer.  As principal of Ann Bevans Collective, she helps clients articulate messages that matter and create print and online marketing programs that communicate those messages with impact. Ann asks tough questions and doesn’t accept flimsy answers. She makes music and writes fiction. She does all her own stunts.  Connect with Ann at www.annbevans.com, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

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