Strengthening Your Business Network Through Volunteering

By Robert Half on July 28, 2015 at 3:11pm

Networking remains a vital activity for accounting and finance leaders, one that appears to be returning to its more traditional roots. Beyond a job search tool or way to tally connections, executives are using their outreach to stay up on the latest trends and grow their business.

Robert Half Management Resources research found the popularity of reaching out via email is surging among chief financial officers, while the preference for social media is falling. No matter their favorite outreach vehicle, one way many executives build their business and careers through networking is volunteering.

Making volunteering work for you – and your company

How can philanthropic work enable financial executives to help their companies and grow their careers? Here are just a few ways:

  • Improve recruiting and retention

“Many job seekers include the charitable activities of a prospective employer among their priorities when making a decision on a job offer,” says Robert Half community relations manager Lisa Montagna. “As competition for talent heats up, volunteering can offer you and your company an edge.”

Echoing Montagna’s insights, a survey by our company’s OfficeTeam division found more than four in 10 workers said a company’s participation in charitable activities influences their decision to work there. The appeal of philanthropic firms is particularly strong for the youngest generations in the workforce. The majority of respondents ages 18 to 34, including Millennials and Gen Z, are attracted to organizations involved with charitable outreach.

  • Meet new customers and business contacts

People want to buy from businesses they know and feel good about. Reaching out to your community will help you spread the word about your products or services and build affinity for your brand.

“Many of our managers have built their networks through volunteering, especially when they have transferred to new states or cities,” adds Montagna. “Volunteering allows them to meet people immediately and start to network from day one. Several of our executives now sit on boards for groups like Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Junior Achievement.”

  • Enhance your company’s reputation

“Philanthropy gives your company positive exposure in the communities where your employees live and work,” Montagna says. “You have the opportunity to build goodwill for your business, including among people who may not have been familiar with it previously.”

  • Boost your health

Helping the community also offers health benefits. Citing academic research, Dress for Success noted on its website that studies show volunteering can reduce the risk of death by 25 percent, improving both physical and mental well-being.

Getting started

If you’re looking for a volunteer activity, below are a few recommendations from Montagna:

  • Start with your passion

For example, if you like sports, offer to coach a Little League team. If you enjoy cooking, once a month you could make meals for a soup kitchen.

“The key,” says Montagna, “is to do something you enjoy because you will be motivated to stay involved.”

  • Know it’s OK to start small

If you’re not sure where to start or where you’ll fit, take comfort knowing everything you do – no matter how large or small it may seem – will help.

“If all you can offer is one hour a month or a quarter, don’t think that won’t make an impact,” says Montagna. “It is amazing what you can accomplish in an hour!”

  • Check out your company’s activities

Many organizations help facilitate volunteer work for employees. In addition to having all the information you need to get started available internally, you may even be able to make your outreach a group outing or team-building exercise.

  • Consult your network

Coming full circle, Montagna recommends talking to your contacts for their thoughts. “Get advice from friends and colleagues who are already active volunteers. Talk to a variety of people involved with different causes and see which interest you most.”

A more personal approach to business networking

CFOs’ shift from social media to email as their preferred networking tool suggests they seek more personal outreach. And there are fewer things more personal than enriching the lives of others.

Editor’s Note: Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Dress for Success are nonprofit partners of Robert Half.

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