Based on your education, accounting knowledge and natural commitment, you have the mindset of a natural-born leader – attributes your employer certainly recognizes, and traits any nonprofit or association will gladly accept.
Serving in a volunteer role is good for you and good for your career, but how much time are you willing to spend, and what are the benefits for you, your employer, and even the organization you want to serve?
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, if you were born after 1982, you are among the most engaged volunteers in the country. Whether it’s taking part of an overall firm or company initiative to develop young CPAs into leadership roles – or proactively seeking volunteer causes you are passionate about – ask yourself this what’s in it for me?
- A shiny halo. Especially in a tough economy, volunteers are needed now, more than ever. Every organization or group you choose to dedicate your time and expertise will love you for it.
- Carry the good seal of approval. No matter what level you are in your firm or company, you might be surprised how outsiders view you. When you serve on a nonprofit project, committee, or board of directors, your credentials are rarely questioned; they’re mostly just appreciated, especially when you volunteer or add value in financial management. That’s a confidence boost for you.
- 15 minutes of fame. Your name or your employer’s name might pop up on print and online materials created by the nonprofit. It never hurts you and your company to be associated with good works.
- Valuable relationships. Business is more about who you know than what you know. The people you meet are likely to experience you at your best when you’re volunteering, and they’ll remember you when they, or someone they know, needs a CPA.
- Set a clear course. Volunteering allows you to lift your eyes and mind from the daily grind. It might also make you grateful for your education, profession, and prospects in life.
- Achieve your personal best. On the personal side, spending time helping others improves our health and outlook on life. You’ll feel good about what you’re doing and carry this feeling with you.
If you’ve decided you want to join a project, committee, or board, it’s smart to determine a few key issues before making the leap.
Be prepared to put in the time and expertise required. Depending on the project, individual projects probably will take the least time, usually not more than a few hours a week or even in a month. Committees usually meet once a month for an hour or two, while boards require a more serious time commitment with increased attendance at board meetings, fundraisers and events, and varying committee responsibilities.
Find out your company’s policy before you make a big commitment of time. You don’t want to disappoint your employer if, for some reason, you are prohibited from volunteer service or there are requirements you must follow. It’s best to be aware of the policies. For example, how does the firm or company expect you to account for your volunteer time? Is it paid or unpaid? Will your company have to become a sponsor or contributor if you become a board member? Does the nonprofit conflict with your company’s image or mission?
Tread lightly on egos. Let’s say you were asked by one of your firm’s clients to serve on a committee for Earth Day. Sounds great, right – and it’s something you definitely want to do. However, you find out after accepting the position that your boss is miffed because she wasn’t asked to serve. Although you don’t want to overthink the situation, carefully consider whether you’re stepping on any toes.
Get clarity about your responsibilities and time commitment. If it’s a board position, ask the executive director for a board member job description and get clarity on the board’s donation expectations. Most nonprofits have a “give or get” philosophy, but you must know the rules; it’s a direct reflection on you and your company if you do not come through. Regardless of your level of involvement, be upfront about your resources. Don’t kid yourself or anyone else about what you’re willing and able to do.
Through community service, you can hone your leadership skills and bring those skills back to your company. Choose projects and organizations that hit you in the heart as well as the mind. Volunteering is a commitment, so you’re better off working with an organization that has meaning to you.
Finally, don’t volunteer just because you think it’s good for your resume or your firm’s resume. You’ll be miserable every hour if you do and that will show up in your behavior. Remember, you’re always representing yourself and your company.