I have long been an advocate of volunteering… especially as it relates to business networking. One of the first steps toward networking your business is to become more visible in the the group and community the group services. It will help connect you with other members who share your passion for networking. By building these trusting relationships with other successful members, you essentially gain publicity for yourself and your business.
One of the smartest moves I ever made was starting my own networking group – The Tulsa Business Connection in 1975. Within 7 months, we had 47 members all in different business classifications. By the end of the year we had 65 members, 45 to 50 of which attended nearly every weekly lunch meeting we had. Dues were $40 per month, not including lunch. No one complained because they are all busy promoting themselves and our group and everyone was actively “looking” for business referrals for other members.
Attendance and dues are seldom a problem if everyone is doing their job; bringing at least one business lead every week and if they didn’t 25 cents went into the connection can. At the end of the meeting there was a drawing for those who did bring leads. Whoever’s card was chosen, won the “Connection Can Cash!” What a powerful group. The first year we exchanged nearly $2,000,000 in business leads for our members.
Anyone who had been a TBC member for more than 3 months knew that to volunteer to do something for the group was almost imperative. Those who didn’t volunteer were not that visible and as a result got very few referrals and eventually dropped out. We had many committees with about 5 members each who were responsible for various projects the group had chosen to support. Several were philanthropic. Our most popular committee was in charge of our “Quarterly Connections!” 4 time a year we would plan outside social events just for fun. Nearly member was involved in some kind of group activity.
I taught everyone to reach out to the community. Those who volunteered demonstrated their commitment to our group without concern for personal gain – and that was there too. Volunteering will always present new opportunities to help you spread the word about our group, your products/services and build affinity for our networking brand. Once our new President told me that she was have difficulty trying to do everything that was expected of her. The next meeting I asked for a volunteer to be assistant to the President and 14 hands went up. TBC was the largest, most active and most productive networking group in Tulsa for more than 15 years.
Several times we had special meetings and invited another networking group who was not doing so well to come and visit TBC to see why our group was doing so well. There was a substantial fee if they wanted me or someone deeply involved in our group to visit their group for one quarter to help them get on track and be more productive.
The Tulsa Business Connection established the first “Runaway Hot Line” with Tulsa Youth Services to help parents find their children who ran away. That news made the Tulsa World newspaper, every TV and nearly every radio station in town. We were all over the news and people were calling to join TBC.
Volunteers quickly learned that they had to invest something into our group in order to get something out of it. Once the members knew the value of volunteering, hardly anyone said no when asked to help out with a group function. Here are a few of the ways they could volunteer:
• Registration Attendant to sign in attendees
• Greeter – This was a great position. You got to meet and greet everyone who attended
• Quarterly Connections – Party & social time – no networking
• Photographer – Photograph our special events
• President’s Assistant
• Printer – Volunteer to print TBC forms, weekly newsletter
• Videographer – Video our special events
• Special Seminar for newbies – once each quarter we would review our bylaws, help member design a “30-Second Connection” and offer tips that help them better network
• Volunteer Recruiters – Members who were assigned to recruit specific people thought to be good for our group
• Event Managers – Helped plan our special events
• Service Providers – Various professional service providers would come to an event and provide services to the attendees as a way to make the events better and showcase their product/service
• Spokesperson/Interviewer – For media interviews –
• Radio Broadcaster/PR – Helped prepare news releases, etc.
• Exit Interviewer – Our bylaws allowed for asking members who just came to the meetings and never offered business referrals to begin to do so (30 day warning) or they were very nicely asked to allow their business classification to be filled by someone else. (This may sound harsh, however, it was one way we kept the group full of savvy networkers and eliminated the leaches).
“Invest time in a cause that you care about. Volunteering puts you directly in touch with people who share the same values and passions – which can be a good foundation for working together or referring one another. Volunteer for an organization that you really care about. You’ll find new contacts and be making the world a better place at the same time. You may even be able to help your favorite charity with your business. Donate consulting time or manage a project pro bono and you’ll reap multiple benefits – new contacts, a project for your portfolio and contributing to a cause you care about.” ~ Ruben Gamez, Founder of Bidsketch.
Network group leaders: Design some ways you can help people in your group to volunteer to help your group. I promise it will make a terrific impact on the group and the attitudes of your members!
Copyright © 2015 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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