So, you want to get involved in your community, but where do you begin? If you have never volunteered before, or haven’t in a while, the idea can seem daunting. You may be asking yourself, where do I even start? What organization should I get involved with? Or perhaps, how will I even make the time?
To further explore this topic, we consulted our Regional Managing Partners, who are responsible for leading and encouraging community involvement efforts throughout our firm’s footprint. These leaders have volunteered decades of their time and resources to local nonprofits and community boards and have excellent insight on how to get involved and make a difference.
Find Your Passion
The first, and arguably most important, step in getting involved in your community is to find a cause that resonates with you.
There are endless nonprofits out there and it can be overwhelming to choose which one you want to volunteer for. Start thinking about what causes mean something to you; are you passionate about animals? Education? Mental health awareness? Would you like to get involved with a religious organization? Or maybe you have dealt with something traumatic in your own life and want to help others process it, prevent it, or raise awareness around it.
“When I choose how/where I am going to give back, I think about where my passion is and what organizations I would feel good about donating to or volunteering for. Where I spend my time means a lot to me and when I know I am volunteering for a cause I believe in, I feel good about how that time was spent,” shared Nancy Snyder, our Rochester Regional Managing Partner.
Tom Gianatasio, Regional Managing Partner of the Capital Region and our Vermont office, has volunteered on nonprofit boards for years. He encourages those who are interested in community service to find something they really care about and pursue it. “When you are passionate about a cause you are pursuing, you will likely care more and this will result in both better quality service as well as a desire to continue,” added Tom.
Share Your Expertise
Another important factor to consider is your skillset and how your unique abilities can benefit an organization. Most organizations will take any help they can get, but if you are particularly skilled at woodworking, for example, you may want to find an organization where you can put that skill to use and perhaps build furniture for those in need.
Todd Klaben, Regional Managing Partner of our Central NY offices, uses his financial background to help local organizations in need. “I am currently on the board of CenterState as well as the finance committee with my church. I also recently finished my nine-year commitment at Francis House where I served as a board member and treasurer,” shared Todd. “I enjoy getting involved within the community in those aspects of my life that where I know that I can help out and use my financial expertise for a greater purpose.”
You might also have a certain quality that could benefit others, outside of professional expertise. For example, if you consider yourself to be very empathetic and enjoy listening to and helping others, you may want to consider joining a support group. “If you feel you have a specific gift or quality that could benefit people, I encourage you to share it with others!” added Nancy.
Recruit Others to Join You
Not only can incorporating friends and family into your volunteer efforts ease your nerves if you are apprehensive about going alone, but it can be a great way to make this time even more special.
“Find people to volunteer with (family/friend/co-workers) and build those relationships to enhance your impact and make your involvement more meaningful,” shared Todd.
And, of course, when it comes to community involvement, the more the merrier!
Consult Your Professional Network
Tapping into your professional network for community service ideas and connections could be another great place to start. If you ask around a bit, it is likely that someone at your company knows an organization that could use your help.
Terry Ganer, our NYC/Remote Regional Managing Partner, has found volunteer opportunities through his clients at the firm.
“At Bonadio, we have a such a strong base of nonprofit clients, and this has been one of the prime ways I have found community involvement opportunities. Be sure to check with your professional network!”
Just Reach Out
Physically connecting with an organization to sign up to volunteer is actually quite simple in most cases.
“Nonprofit organizations are always looking for helping hands and are very receptive when it comes to conversations with those who are interested in their mission and potentially getting involved,” explained Terry.
Most organizations even have a section on their website for volunteers with a phone number or email that you can reach out to for more information. And from there, they will let you know how to proceed, and you’ll be on your way to a new volunteer opportunity.
Depending on the nature of the organization, you may be able to just show up and get started. However, for organizations that deal with sensitive issues or personal data, be prepared for an application, interview, and potentially a background check.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Now that you have all the resources and knowledge to start your community service journey, it may be tempting to sign up for a handful of local organizations you are interested in right off the bat. However, our leaders caution against taking on more than you can handle, especially if you are a community service beginner.
“If you are new to volunteering, start small. This could mean starting with a few hours a week/month, or a one-time event. From there, you can gradually increase your involvement as you get more comfortable,” shared Todd.
Similarly, Tom encourages folks to be realistic about their schedules. “Don’t over commit on your schedule – be realistic about the time you can commit to and communicate that. It is crucial to keep this in mind so you don’t shortchange the organization or exhaust yourself,” he added.
For more information about community involvement efforts at TBG, please visit our community involvement page here. And if you are interested in pursuing a career where volunteering is not only encouraged, but prioritized, TBG could be the right fit! Check out current open positions here.