Volunteering = Leadership Opportunities

By Jenny Vance, an EO Indianapolis member and president of LeadJen.

I believe that every company has a responsibility to give back to the community. This idea nagged at me for some time as I was growing my business. I never seemed to have enough time to put a volunteering effort in place. Then there was the small issue of which nonprofit would benefit from our time and talent.

We have a fairly diverse staff. In addition to both men and women, we have a variety of ages, ethnicities and faith backgrounds. Could the entire company agree on a beneficiary? Would employees feel pressured by this effort? I noticed that many of our employees were stepping forward to support causes they were passionate about already, so I decided to formalize a program that included two important elements:

  1. Employees as a group would decide which nonprofits to support.
  2. Employees would manage the effort.

While this approach solved the two challenges holding me back from implementing a volunteering effort, what I found surprised me: volunteering is a wonderful tool to build and shape more leaders in my organization. Our volunteering program includes a quarterly event in which we volunteer as a group. For example, we recently participated in a program that provides housing to homeless individuals by helping with construction work.

Each of these volunteer events is managed by one of our employees who proposes the event, gets employee buy-in, works with the nonprofit and coordinates all the details of the day: is the event appropriate for all ages, what should employees wear, do they need to bring anything, are meals/water provided, will someone from the nonprofit address the group, etc.

For many of our employees, managing a volunteer event gives them first level leadership experience without risking company revenue or profits. It’s a wonderful opportunity for these employees to learn important management skills, gain experience talking to a group and grow in confidence.

A post-event feedback loop, in which we discuss what we learned from the event and what we could have done better, helps the event manager further hone leadership skills. I am inspired by how many natural leaders we have and the number of employees interested in learning how to manage.

Volunteering also has helped us to build community within our company. Employees are proud of the work we’re doing, have a common effort to coalesce around, and even have included their families in our volunteer events.

LeadJen is a B2B lead generation company that uses unparalleled data and insight to drive prospect interactions that convert to sales.  Jenny be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jennyvancyindy.

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