Networking by Volunteering

We’ve all heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The more people you know, the better chance you have of finding the people you need, and finding the people that need you!

BNI is all about networking. But, you shouldn’t limit yourself to networking solely through BNI. The more you network, the more people you meet, the more people you can invite to join you at BNI, the larger your network grows.

For many people the idea of walking into a networking event and meeting lots of strangers is enough to make them want to run back to the parking lot. Networking doesn’t have to be defined by “What do you do? Here’s my business card. Let’s get together.” Simply put, it’s growing the circle of people you know. Volunteering is a great way to get out there and meet people without the pressure of “meeting people”.

Nothing supports the “Givers Gain” philosophy more than volunteering. Here are 5 great tips to help you get out there and volunteer:

  • Find a local non-profit that you feel passionate about the cause. There are over 1100 non-profit organizations in Greene County alone. Do you know someone that has had a medical issue? Volunteer for the non-profit that raises money for that cause. Do you feel passionately about helping kids? Do you want to feed the hungry? What pulls at your heartstrings?
  • Do you have a skill or hobby that could help someone? My mother-in-law was a talented seamstress. She made blankets for kids in the hospital. A friend of mine was a karate champ. He taught kids that had been abused to help them recover self-esteem. Do you like woodworking, jewelry-making, or gardening? Combine your interest with volunteering. If you can’t find a fit… start one!
  • Decide on your time commitment. Volunteering can take as much or as little time as you would like to devote. The key is to figure out what works best for you with your schedule. If you work full-time, have a family, and a home to take care of, you probably don’t want to take on 30 hours of volunteering a week. Find the balance that works for you.
  • Meet people while you volunteer. I have met hundreds of people volunteering. In fact, I was invited to BNI by a fellow committee member while volunteering. If you only say hello and don’t learn anything about your fellow volunteers, that’s not networking. Ask questions. Then ask more questions. Send them a quick email saying it was nice meeting you… I enjoyed volunteering with you. If you contact that person again in the future, they are more likely to remember you if you contacted them previously. And, volunteering lends a touch of credibility to your character. And everybody likes to do business with people of character.
  • Finally, in order to really meet people and get to know them, volunteer to be on the planning committee, or chair a committee. You certainly can meet people volunteering for a couple of hours. However, you are more likely to make real connections with those that you see repeatedly.

So, go out and apply the “Givers Gain” philosophy. Give of your time, and gain some connections!

Sharyn Dawson
Print Project Management