I’m often asked by people, “Ben, I want to get involved in charity work… How do I join a board?” I’m not sure why they think I’m a good resource for that, but I suppose I do my share of community involvement and non-profit charity work… Regardless, I’ve found there has been a concerning trend exploring this discussion with folks recently. It seems some people just want to get involved with “anything” to pad their resume with something that makes them look more well-rounded.
When it comes to being good, I say those people aren’t good–they’re just good at appearing good!
My first question to them is “Why do you want to give back?” If the answer is “to pad my resume” then I tell them that’s not a very good reason to get involved! In my experience, there’s usually a strong story behind someone with a true motivation to help others. Maybe they came from nothing, are now successful and want to give back. Perhaps they’ve had a recent experience that opened their eyes to something they weren’t aware of. Or, maybe they are inspired by a friend or family member’s recent struggle. Sure, anyone can donate some time, money or goods and it helps out… But those with real motivation and an urge to do so are the ones who keep it up and can really make a long-term impact over time!
The second question I ask is “What are you passionate about?” I’ve almost never seen a long-term successful volunteer, committee member or board member where that person is not passionate about the organization or cause. If you’re not passionate about something, eventually the initial fun or excitement wears off and you stop being effective. There may be some exceptions to this, but I find that being involved with something you have a true passion for is the key to making a difference. That’s what people should target when looking at giving back–choose what you love and you’ll be on the fast-track for long-term involvement in a cause!
Finally, my last question is “Do you want to join a board immediately, or work your way up to one?” Even if you are motivated to want to give back, and you get involved in your passion, you’ve simply got to put in the time to get to know the organization and people involved. Board members typically came from working or volunteering within the organization, or from a similar organization or background. If you were an employee, you wouldn’t expect to just a new company as President, would you? Attend events, look for volunteer opportunities, help out before and after events, join a committee or planning group… The opportunities are endless to get involved. It should be easy if you have the right reasons and the passion for it! Work will pay off and you’ll probably find your way up to a board seat… Eventually.
After talking through those three questions, we both know if this is a serious endeavor or not. Those who have the right answers are ready to find an organization, get involved and do some good. Motivation, passion and hard work are the fuel that drives you to that board seat… and it’s so much more comfortable when you’ve earned it :)
Some people are just doing charity or community work, playing a part like it’s a game… What about you? Are you good, or just good at it?