Business owners are frequently asked to contribute or donate to special causes. For small businesses, every penny counts. Instead of making small financial contributions to every walk-in request, think about finding a cause that your business can really support by offering expertise on a volunteer basis. By matching your business to an organization in need, you can make an even bigger impact.
Find a Nonprofit That Needs Your Skill Set or Aligns With Your Business Niche
Aimee Pfaff, an AFLAC agent in Sacramento, Calif., volunteers for WEAVE, an agency committed to preventing violence against women. “I just like to volunteer and be useful, but like most people, I choose organizations that provide help for things I can relate to and where funds actually go to the cause and not to executive compensation,” Pfaff says.
AJ Borowsky and Julie Vila own a Hand & Stone Massage franchise in New Brunswick, N.J. Borowsky, an ABC News producer and author of What Next: A Proactive Approach to Success, says he and Vila will be partnering with Habitat for Humanity to offer chair massages to volunteers and homeowners who are building or remodeling a home.
Sheldon Haynie, owner of Lightheart Cellars in San Martin, Calif., helps out at Valley Verde, a nonprofit near San Jose that gives low-income families the knowledge and tools needed to grow and maintain their own organic vegetable gardens at no cost. Haynie uses his winery’s flatbed truck to distribute raised bed kits, soil, and plants to Valley Verde’s beneficiaries.
Mike Rohrbach, a retired data specialist and software salesman in Tucson, Ariz., is using his connections and experience in internet technology to start a nonprofit that matches seniors wanting to master computer and smartphone skills with at-risk students who are technology whizzes. “Our program is called SkillVillage,” says Rohrbach. “It gives youth pride in skills they already possess, and by matching them with seniors who need those skills but have tons of life experience, we are creating a mutually rewarding learning environment. Think of it as an internet age variation of historical, verbal traditions and skill sharing.”
Matching Professionals With Organizations in Need
Not sure what’s right for you and your business? Catchafire matches skilled volunteers with nonprofits and social enterprises. Founder Rachael Chong came up with the idea when she was a young investment banker. “At 5-foot-2, hauling lumber is not something I’m particularly skilled at,” she says, “whereas strategy, writing, and financial work are. I spent months searching for a skills-based volunteer opportunity but never found one.” Chong left the investment world to work with a large nonprofit. “With a limited staff and budget, I had to get creative. I looked to my network of friends and former colleagues, getting them to donate their time and expertise on short-term, discrete projects. By doing so, I was able to free up the full-time staff’s time and raise millions of dollars in the organization’s first year.”
Realizing the role skills-based volunteer help had in this success, Chong founded Catchafire with the goal of making it easy for professionals and nonprofits to connect. Catchafire now has over 5,000 organizations looking for professional pro bono assistance.
Chong urges professionals to check out the site. “It feels amazing to use the best of yourself and your skills to make an impact and to see the social value of the skills you bring to your job in a new light. But even more importantly, skills-based volunteering is a great way to show the world what your skills are instead of just talking about them, whether you are looking for a job or trying to grow in your current one. Our volunteers use Catchafire projects to build their portfolios, explore a career transition, and expand their networks. We even see people list their experience on their LinkedIn pages as ‘Catchafire Pro Bono Consultants,’ which is a great testament to the value they see in what they do.”