Solopreneurs: 3 Things to Consider before Saying “Yes” to a Volunteer Opportunity
Solopreneurs’ entrepreneurial skills and experience – and our flexibility in scheduling our work – make us attractive candidates for leadership positions at community and professional organizations. We’re the quintessential volunteers. Driven to make change. Dedicated. Available.
And volunteering on committees and serving on boards of directors brings you tremendous opportunities for both professional and personal development.
By giving your time and talent, you can:
- hone your skills as a leader,
- make new business connections, and
- enjoy participating as part of a team (even solopreneurs don’t want to always be in solitude!)
But before you jump in and grab the first volunteer opportunity that comes your way, you need to recognize that volunteering takes time, energy and focus. Sometimes lots of all three! Avoid overextending yourself by considering…
Ask the organization how many hours it expects you to devote to the position each month – and for how long. Naturally, monthly involvement could vary depending on what events and activities are in progress, but get an average. And what is the term of the position? Are you committing to one year? Two? Three? Then take inventory of your existing commitments – volunteer, professional, personal – and carefully assess whether or not you can accommodate the responsibility.
Find out when and how often your committee or board meets, and ask if the organization requires people in your position to attend a minimum number of meetings. Verify that the days and times of required meetings won’t impede your ability to serve your clients. If it’s likely that business commitments will regularly trump your availability to attend meetings, the opportunity might not be a good fit for you.
Admirable as it is to volunteer your time to the greater good, you need to be sure you’re gaining something from the experience. Think long and hard about the knowledge, skills, connections, and credentials you expect to take away. Don’t feel guilty about wanting something in return for your efforts! Organizations benefit most from volunteers who have enthusiasm and purpose. It stands to reason that you’ll be more energized and committed if you see both personal and professional value in your involvement.
Volunteering can boost your business acumen and bring personal fulfillment, but the decision to do it needs careful consideration. Make sure you: believe in the cause, can accommodate the commitment, and will derive benefits that justify the sacrifices you’ll be making. If you do, both you and the organization you’ve selected will reap the rewards.
Your turn: What volunteer endeavors have helped – or hindered – your business success? If you’ve had volunteer experience, what advice for managing the commitment do you have for other solopreneurs?
One endeavor as the Head Coach for a local high school, although not volunteer — you don’t coach high school athletics for the money– almost has derailed my own small business. Time commitment was way more than I expected. Loved being a coach, but had to resign as if I did it again, it would kill my business.
Thanks for sharing, Steve! Hopefully, they were appreciative of the time you had given and understood why you couldn’t do it again. From my husband’s days of coaching (and not even in a head coach position) a team in Ephrata’s midget league, I know that you had to have put in tons of hours between administrative responsibilities and working with the team. That certainly would be next to impossible to sustain while running a business!