When starting a business, it seems that your very first decision is offline or online? For online entrepreneurs like myself, we choose this option for various reasons — location independence, lower start-up costs, worldwide access, etc.
At first, it is super fun to have a laptop lifestyle and to be as nomadic as you please. Then a year like 2020 rolls around, and suddenly, you decide human interaction isn’t such a bad thing after all.
This exact experience is what led me to a “full-circle moment.” For years, I was a community leader through my 9-5 jobs. Every step of the way, I was fighting my desire to build a heart-centered business offline. These community positions were fun and all, but they felt like they were keeping me from my destiny. Eventually I broke free of the 9-5 and built my six-figure empire online. Guess what happened next? Yup, I began craving an offline community.
As soon as I re-entered volunteer community work, my life, business, and soul were blessed. Perhaps you too may be searching for an offline community of like-minded business owners, or more fulfillment or peace or an opportunity to give back. Serving your community is an excellent place to start in any of these cases.
The Heart and Soul of the Community
A wise man and community volunteer once told me, “Non-profit organizations are the heart and soul of the community.” He was totally right. While the business and government may be the lungs and brains, the non-profits are who serve out of a loving heart, create free events to bring neighbors together, and craft cultural displays and celebrations for the good of the entire community.
As an online entrepreneur, I’ve been both heavily disconnected from my local community and heavily involved in it. I have to say that there is a fine balance. As business owners, we can’t volunteer 40-hours a week AND run a full-time business, but what we can do is donate a specific amount of our services, time or profits.
4 Reasons to Get Involved with Local Non-Profits
Here are four reasons why online entrepreneurs should find opportunities to get involved with their local non-profit organizations:
1. Practice Being Offline
Do you ever get sooooo far into your online biz that when you close your laptop you wonder what’s even real anymore?? For many of us, the end of an online workday is met with a bit of eye fatigue, tense shoulders, and a strange transition from virtual back to reality.
Many of us introduce ourselves to colleagues online all day long. But how long has it been since you gave someone a business card and shook their hand? The simple in-person interactions can be quite a luxury after sitting behind a screen all day.
Getting involved in your community is a great way to make friends, colleagues, and clients offline, which broadens your base and exercises different types of thinking within your brain.
2. Exercise Your SERVICE Muscle
I once had a mentor explain to me that when we use someone else’s service for free over and over and over again without giving back, we are being a mooch. This is true when it comes to your community. Enjoy those live concerts in the park? How about those fun Christmas events and outdoor markets?
Everything your community offers you for free, is due to the fact that a dozen or more non-paid volunteers wanted to see something beautiful happen within their community. And here’s a little secret: THEY ALWAYS NEED HELP and have a really hard time finding volunteers to do even simple jobs, like say — stamping tickets at the entry of an event.
When we step up and volunteer to help our our local non-profit organizations, we are helping big-hearted individuals with their self-care, we are giving back to the community that we love to live in, and we are exercising the heart-muscles that flex when we serve for the sole purpose of serving. Doesn’t that feel good?
3. Open Your Mind
I recently read an entire magazine that explained how arts and community events are the thread to unite different cultures, bring neighbors together, and increase the local economy. As an active community member, I couldn’t agree more.
When I organize or attend a local community event, I get to see the faces of my neighbors — people who, like me, chose to live in the community that we share. Suddenly, we aren’t all that different. We have a common thread connecting us together.
Community events are important for all ages, all genders, and all walks of life. This helps unite us in our love for our community and the desire to enjoy ourselves in a safe and prosperous community. I promise you, by getting involved with the building, organizing and brainstorming of these events, you’ll be thrice as thankful for the community you call home and the neighbors you share it with.
4. Meet New People
In a small rural Californian town, I honestly didn’t think there would be many people who understood my industry or much less wanted to learn more about it. Much to my surprise, within the first half hour of a local Chamber networking event, I had effortlessly passed out a dozen business cards to people I genuinely wanted to keep in touch with. One of them even offered me a job to supplement my business income!
This is a perfect time to remind you of the old business cliche, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” And who knows, you may even pick up a few clients along the way!
How to Get Involved
It may feel awkward at first — you know, getting offline and meeting people IRL — but don’t worry, the awkwardness quickly fades, especially when you realize we’re all quite awkward regardless!
Start by Doing a Google Search
Try “NAME OF YOUR TOWN/NEIGHBORHOOD + NON-PROFITS.” You can also capitalize on one of your interests. For instance, when I moved to Sonora, California, I spent a lot of time Googling “Sonora Arts Organizations,” “Sonora Arts Programs,” and “Sonora Art Events.” This gave me a general overview of who was active in the area and what piqued my interest.
PRO TIP: Even if a website looks out of date or a Facebook Page has gone awkwardly silent for an extended period of time, don’t dismiss the group as inactive. Often times, small non-profits and community organizations are severely understaffed (if they have an employee at all), which leads many things (like websites and Facebook Pages) to fall to the wayside. Take the extra step and CALL the organization.
Make Your Desire to Serve Known
Once you’ve found a few organizations that interest you, it is important that you reach out and introduce yourself and express your desire to serve. Call the organization and make the introduction. You may need to call multiple times before you get in touch with the right person. Again, these organizations are often so understaffed that one person might very well be running the whole thing.
I urge you to consistently reach out, or better yet — go to the office or event in person and introduce yourself. Have your contact info or a business card ready, so you can hand this busy head-honcho your info. (You’ll recognize them by the clipboard, the ringing cell-phone, and the frazzled look on their face.)
Rest-assured, they desperately need your help. They may not have the time to think about it now, but with your consistent desire to serve, they will eventually worship the ground you walk on.
Also — these rules are doubly important if you are in a rural area or a small community!
Choose Your Service Strengths
Jot down 1-2 of your strengths you’d be willing to use as a service to the organization and mention those to your point of contact.
For example, if you are a web-designer and branding expert, you may say something like this:
“Hi there, My name is Sheba Shoo and I am interested in volunteering for your Puppies for Paradise organization. I love your mission and want to get involved. In fact, I noticed your website online and have some ideas I’d like to share about how to improve it, so your message can reach more people. I’d be happy to share these ideas with you and offer my services pro-bono, as a way of service for this organization. [Hand over a business card that clearly explains you are a web designing wizard, and how to easily contact you for more information.]
Perhaps you are reading this and thinking, “Oh yeah right, like I could take on ANOTHER client, FOR FREE! I don’t have the time or the head-space for that!”
Great, so donate something that doesn’t involve your head. Perhaps offer to work at an event or stamp fundraising letters. Ask the director/ board member what they need help with that you could do in 1-2 hours a month. I can guarantee you, they’ll be OVERJOYED at the fact that you even asked!
Pass the Buck
Of course, if reading all of this, you still don’t feel you have the time or energy to serve but you do want to give back somehow, you can always donate your money or a portion of your business profits to a like-minded service-based organization.
The latter is what’s known as a form of partnership. Discuss your idea with the head of the organization so they are aware and comfortable with the idea. You also need to make sure they are of the right legal structure to receive in this format.
If it is a yes on both sides, I suggest sharing publicly your partnership and the % of profits that go toward helping the organization of your choice. Chances are, your clients will love the idea of you assisting a local non-profit.
If a formal partnership isn’t ringing any bells for you, a one-time gift or donation is always most appreciated by non-profit organizations. It’s important to remember that most of them operate from fundraising, grants, membership fees, and donations, so the extra finances are always a blessing.
In summation, volunteering your time for a local organization is beneficial to you and your personal development, the heart-centered organization of your choice, AND the community you live in as a whole.
When you serve a non-profit, you are benefiting the heart of your community and the people who need it most. As someone who’s been blessed with a fabulous community and business to match, it ought to be your most welcomed duty to give back with a heart full of gratitude.
Here are a few organizations I recommend to help you get started:
Chamber of Commerce: If you aren’t familiar with Chambers of Commerce, do a quick search. The Chamber is a special non-profit found in most communities that solely exists to represent all of the local businesses under one united umbrella.
Typically, local businesses have the option to join with an annual membership fee, which usually includes perks such as public website listings of your business, networking opportunities, and much more. Find out if your hometown has a Chamber of Commerce and contact them directly about your desire to get involved. If they don’t need the help, they can most-often direct you to someone who does!
Arts Council: Local arts councils bring vibrancy and big thinking to the places we call “home.” Each council is different. Some may host plays and musicals while others function as hubs for creative placemaking ideas. Find out what’s up at your local arts council, and decide if they are a good fit for your service.
SBDC (Americans): In my opinion, this is America’s best-kept secret. The Small Business Development Center is a federal program that is adopted at the regional level. These entities exist to help new businesses thrive within your community. Business Planning, website development, marketing, licensing, and bookkeeping are a few things that local business owners may search out from this organization.
The fun part, is that if you work with businesses in your online job, you most likely can offer your services to the SBDC and supplement your income in the process! Check the Googler to see if there is one near you.
About the Author
Haley Hoover is a success coach helping artists and business owners increase innovation, ease, and fulfillment in their work.