Getting Involved In A Charity: Doing Well by Doing Good
By Liza Vasquez CMC ICF and Jeffrey F. Silber CPA MBA CMC
Certified Master Business and Life Coaches
If you have been reading our monthly articles during the last five years, you are well aware that we never stop emphasizing the Human Connection as perhaps the single most important factor in obtaining new clients.
Where is your Heart?
What could be more human than finding some way to give back to society for the benefits we have received. Inasmuch as we are not here to be your spiritual guides, we ask you: Is it possible to do something altruistic which also brings you great personal benefits? It certainly is.
Let’s start with the concept that as a lawyer, you are likely to be in the top tier of society. That is certainly true in Latin America and even in the US, Europe and China, being a lawyer puts you well above the median social and economic level of most of your fellow countrymen. We believe that you owe something back to the country that has given you the opportunity to live so nicely and to provide so well for the future of your children.
Therefore, we encourage you to find a charity that touches your heart; an organization where you can make a contribution to society to pay back in a small way for what your country and society has allowed you to achieve. Therefore, first decide what sort of charity touches your heart. Then get involved. When we say that you should make a contribution, we are not talking about a financial contribution alone, which would keep you of being physically involved, although a financial contribution is certainly a good start. We have in mind, a charity or similar organization that you would like to join and take an active part in.
Your charitable efforts can be limited to your own city such as a local Art museum; a cultural organization like a dance company; your local symphony orchestra; distributing food at the community pantry; helping the homeless; organizations to advance civil, women’s and LGBT rights; an organization to help children in slums or otherwise at-risk; elder care; a religious or spiritual organization and so on. Or you can get involved with organizations that have a global reach, such as the worldwide famine crisis; the plight of refugees; you might want to help raise money to support research to cure a devastating disease; and so on.
Then go volunteer. Get Involved.
Networking Through Active Involvement
When our daughter was little, she was enrolled in a cooperative preschool in the Riverdale section of New York City. Being a cooperative, the parents were expected to volunteer as much as possible to keep the expenses as low as possible and therefore, to keep the school fees - for the financially struggling young parents – also as low as possible. One weekend, all the parents got together at the request of the school’s director, to paint the classrooms. We are not very skilled in painting, and with paint in my hair, I joked at the time that my mother told me that if I went to college, I would not have to do this kind of work, and yet, there we were paint rollers in hand.
Even in this situation, there was some wonderful networking. We got to know some of the other parents through the camaraderie that developed that day as we worked together to get the job done and as we sat around over boxes of pizza at our lunch break. Some of those parents turned out to be very interesting wonderful people and a few even became our friends. We really developed a Human Connection with them.
This anecdote out of our past notwithstanding, your objective is to be as close to the top of a charitable organization as possible. While it may be very personally fulfilling to read books to orphans on a Saturday morning or to help children from slums with their math, you should find ways to leverage your skills, talent and education to maximize the positive impact you can have in helping the organization achieve its goals. This means being a member of the Board of Trustees of the organization where your brains will really count for something.
Who are the members of the Board of Trustees of museums and charitable organizations, poor people? Not at all, they are usually rich people who want to do something socially important with their lives. These are exactly the kind of people you want to meet as part of your Individual Marketing efforts.
You may not be permitted to join the Board of Trustees immediately. You may have to work your way by joining a committee, then being the Chairperson of the committee and then finally getting invited onto the main Board of Trustees. What glorious network for you to appear as an equal with rich people, business owners or corporate executives. And most importantly, you will not be there to try and sell them your service. Eventually, over time. they will start sending you legal work or will refer their friends after they get to know you for who you are: as an intelligent, good-hearted, civic-minded person like themselves. As with all Human Connection, they will learn what you do little by little over time. Do not push in their faces that you are a lawyer.
A Practical Example of How This Works
Dra. Renata, a client of ours in Sao Paulo, is a labor and employment lawyer. There is a charity that is close to her heart to which she devotes a great deal of time. The charity helps teenagers from the slums (favelas) obtain part-time work so that the extra income allows them to stay in school. Dra. Renata approaches the human resources departments of factories, supermarkets, retail stores and so on. She explains the charity’s purposes, methods and past successes. Then she asks them how many of these “at-risk” teenagers they can take for part-time work after school. She tells them nothing of her professional activities as a labor and employment lawyer.
Over time, these companies get to know her. They see her for the fine human being she is and finally they learn she is a labor and employment lawyer. Then what happens is when their regular labor law firm is saturated with work, they turn to Renata to handle these overflow cases. This leads to more and more work for Renata and in some cases, she becomes the main labor and employment lawyer for the company.
If Renata had called these companies the first time asking for an appointment because she is a labor lawyer, the answer would have been “No thank you, we already have a law firm that handles our labor matters.” And no appointment would have resulted, and certainly no legwork would ever have gone her way.
By actively participating in a Charity, you have amazing access as long as you are genuine.
A Word About Not Being Genuine
First and foremost, your involvement must come from your heart. This is important so that you will have the profound personal satisfaction of having helped a worthwhile charity in a meaningful way.
If you go with a pure heart, wanting to help or give back, you will be authentic, genuine and sincere; people will trust you and as a result, you will make some amazing friends and contacts. If you are there exclusively for the networking aspect of volunteering, the other Board members will avoid you and you will not be effective, and you will not enjoy the experience.
Kelly, another client of ours in San Francisco, is a corporate lawyer. When we were coaching her, and her partners on this subject as part of their marketing program, she shared her own experience. It seems the president of one of her corporate clients asked her to incorporate and register a charity for a pet project that he cared about. At first, she was annoyed because he asked her to do this pro bono. And then he asked her to stay involved as the Secretary of the Board, handling the legal work of the charity, which of course, she did.
To her great surprise and joy, her client packed the Board of Trustees with his rich and powerful friends – all top executives or business owners from Hi-Tech Silicon Valley companies. Kelly shared with us and her partners that the members of the Board of Trustees of that charity have proven to be her greatest source of important new business.
Our Own First-Hand Experience With Charities
Jeffrey was originally from the Bronx and later lived in Los Angeles. Wanting to share the success he had achieved; he created the Bronx Alumni Arts Society. This organization put on picnics and other social events for other former Bronxites who, like Jeffrey, had found success in California. With the money the organization raised from these events and from the sale of a monthly nostalgia-oriented newsletter, it sponsored scholarships in summer Arts and Dance programs for Bronx teenagers on the campus of Lehman College and in the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
There used to be a children’s song, that in part went “…. The magic penny, the more you spend it, lend it, give it away, the more it comes back to you….” Truer words have never been spoken. Very often when you set out to do something good in a completely altruistic way, the one who benefits the most is you.
What happened was that we became friends with the many movie stars, producers, writers, TV personalities etc. who were also originally from the Bronx. If we had bought one of the Beverly Hills Maps of the Stars Homes, and knocked on the doors of these famous people and asked, “I’m from the Bronx too, can we be friends?” Not only would the door have been slammed in our faces but also likely the Beverly Hills Police would have soon appeared and hauled us away.
But because they got to know us as charitable people, who were helping current Bronx teenagers in the Arts, people who were perhaps living in their old apartments, these celebrities welcomed us as friends. Jeffrey started out to do a purely good thing with no other motive and these celebrity friendships were a very pleasant but totally unexpected outcome. That magic penny had come home.
Jeffrey has served on the Board of Trustees of three museums. As mentioned earlier, generally only wealthy people serve on these Boards. As a result, he has become personal friends with members of some of America’s wealthiest and most influential families.
If you want to meet interesting, successful people, the best way to do it is by getting actively involved in some form of charity. Just remember that this form of “marketing” must come from your heart and has to be based on your core values of personal generosity and your wanting to help society. Start from that point and expect nothing back. Then be surprised at what opportunities the cosmos presents to you.
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