Community Service – 11 reasons why NOT doing it is crazy

By October 27, 2011Work Ethic

Many business people miss the point when it comes to Community Service.  Typically, we feel this vague sense of guilt that we should be “giving back” more than we are.  Such a narrow perspective…

In fact, that phrase “giving back” has always bugged me.  Frankly, I’ve worked pretty darned hard to achieve the success I’ve had.  Every truly successful business person I know has worked hard.  Sure they’ve all had some good luck too; along with lots of help from lots of others including the community at large.  That said, the honest ones haven’t “taken” anything. In other words, there isn’t anything to give back!

Just plain, “giving” pieces of your time and treasure to your community results in a huge amount of “getting back.”

The memory of the moment I became official as a member of the Cobb Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors is quite clear.  The business lessons learned have been piling up every day since that day.  And all that time I didn’t have to spare?  Somehow – without trying all that hard – it keeps appearing.

Now, the newly renamed Georgia Symphony Orchestra is taking yet another leap forward, building on its proud 61 year history.  The level of excitement from being right in the middle of it all is …well… exciting!  And it doesn’t feel anything like fulfilling some touchy-feely, externally imposed obligation.  It feels exactly like any other good business decision.  Here are 11 things you can learn:

  1. It makes you realize that ideas are a dime a dozen and that execution is the only thing that really matters.  Important business lesson.
  2. You learn how to stretch a dollar.  Non-profits are really hurting for cash these days.  It’s “doing more with less” writ large.  Important business lesson.
  3. You see and learn about real, deep, genuine passion.  The musicians I’ve met have passion for what they do at a whole different level.  It’s remarkable.  Important business lesson.
  4. You get really, really good at collaboration.  It’s virtually all volunteers.  Nobody can order anybody around.  Things still need to get done.   Important business lesson.
  5. It hones your leadership skills.  Everybody around you knows how it “should be done.”  Leading that herd of cats teaches you a thing or two about leading.    Important business lesson.
  6. You get way better at Crisis Management.  (See #2)  The big corporate donor goes bankrupt whacking your budget.  The big grant you expected doesn’t happen, whacking your budget.  Individuals still give, but give less, whacking your budget.  And on and on and on…  Important business lesson.
  7. You get good at calming the waters.  It’s mostly volunteers doing all the hard work right?  And it’s a herd of cats, right?  So things simply are never as well coordinated as you’d like.  Efforts clash.  Personalities clash.  Egos get bruised.  Feelings get hurt.  Now and then a few critical folks get really, really bent out of shape.  You gotta’ deal with it.  Important business lesson.
  8. Time management skills get honed.  You really don’t have enough time.  But you made a commitment, so you’re  obligated to find it; to make it all fit into the day.  Important business lesson.
  9. It’s intensely rewarding at a personal level.  When something big works out, you can look back on what it took to get there.  Makes you want to find another dragon to slay.  Important business lesson.
  10. You learn how to sell.  In my case, I’m raising money for a symphony.  Great cause yes, but competing with starving children, cancer patients, flood victims and whole host of other awesomely great and noble causes.  Talk about practice in shining up your value proposition!  Important business lesson.
  11. It makes your community better, stronger, richer, more vibrant, a better place to live.  i.e., a better place to run a profitable business.  Important business lesson.

Go volunteer for something.  NOW!!!  You’ll end up being part of an awesome organization like the one in the video below.

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