“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
Each semester I speak to Sonoma State University’s (SSU) Finance Club. In my seminar, I encourage the students to get involved in their communities. I want them to not only see the value of helping others, but I want the students to see how community service can help grow their respective networks.
Several of the students in the club have seen me speak a few times now. I asked the professor-in-charge if he wanted me to identify different alumni to approach about presenting in my place. Professor Dr. Jordan looked at me and said, “Absolutely not. You are our most impactful speaker because you talk about getting involved. You show students how joining local groups can significantly shape and further their careers. You open their eyes to a world outside the classroom – a world full of people. It’s still people that make business happen. And knowing how to interact well with people is one of the most important skills to master in life.” After blushing uncontrollably for a few seconds, I realized that
Professor Jordan was right. Learning how to interact with people and building and maintaining relationships is essential to success (and happiness). Joining local business, social and philanthropic groups has given me the opportunity to meet successful people. Ms. Roosevelt’s quote may a bit morbid, but she is right. Besides, I’m too young to die.
I’m currently involved in 5 groups – a mix of nonprofit, education, sales and the print industry. It’s how I get new clients, spend time with friends, make new smart and energetic friends, and become a more well-rounded person. I want to know what’s happening in my community, nationally and globally. I want to know the newest trends in tech, education, literature, leadership and marketing. Knowing about many disciplines helps me implement new technology, become a better leader, make smarter decisions when planning for the future, and get more of the right type of clients. And I’ve discovered that I like helping people.
My personal volunteer guidelines:
• Help others. Give back to the community
• Be in at least 3 different organizations
• Get invovled in organizations outside my industry
• Take a leadership role
• Make business connections with energetic, forward thinking people.
A little over two years ago, I become a board member for the Red Cross California Northwest Chapter. The American Red Cross mission statement follows:
“The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? Within my first month, I was asked to chair the development committee. I immediately said yes, even though I already had a packed schedule. I wanted to make a difference.
The development committee’s main purpose is to raise funds, to develop and maintain relationships with donors, and to put on a large scale breakfast to honor heroes in our local community. We call it the Heroes Breakfast. We find incredible people that have risked their lives to save others, started organizations, improved schools and helped the environment. These heroes are honored in front of their families and community to thank them and motivate others. The stories are very emotional and touching– a pack of tissue is given to each attendee.
Our event took place Thursday, April 21st. It was a ton of work. We scrambled at the end to finalize the details. It was worth the effort. My favorite hero was Max Nunley, a 15 year-old boy who saved a two-year old from drowning. Max noticed the child at the bottom of the pool, jumped in water, swam to the bottom, pulled him to the surface, swam to the pool’s edge and screamed for help. The two year-old was blue, but soon began to breath. He made a full recovery. Max Nunley risked his life to save another. I still remember the two year-old’s mom who attended the ceremony. She continually squeezed her child’s hand with tears running down her face. The packs of tissue were much in use.
I joined the Red Cross because I wanted to help and because I wanted to make business connections. While serving on the Red Cross board and listening to the heroes, I was surprised by how much it affected me. I was inspired to do more. I think it made me a better person.
An epiphany: Meeting business peers in a volunteer setting adds depth and meaning to an otherwise one-dimensional relationship. If I see a person (or they see me) helping others, respect and admiration is built in to the relationship. Success (business or personal, or perhaps both) is much more likely. By joining the Red Cross, I was able to meet the sourcing manager who oversees the print spend for the national Red Cross. In the months that have followed, I have made many more business connections through my volunteer work. I have great respect for all the people I have met.
I’m sure it’s easier to lie on your couch, eat Bon Bons and watch Days of Our Lives. Get up, brush yourself off, and get involved. Make Eleanor Roosevelt proud.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss event, small minds discuss people.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
I’m not sure how this quote connects to my article, but I really like it.
This article first appeared in the Print Solutions Magazine produced by the Print Services & Distribution Association (PSDA).