Episode 362: Visibility through Volunteering

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Dr. Misner has recommended getting involved in service organizations since he wrote his very first book. Involvement in these groups expands the depth and breadth of your networking. In this episode, he thought he’d get more specific about how to decide which groups to get involved with. People who volunteer demonstrate their commitment to a cause without concern for personal gain, so you should be volunteering with organizations that you have genuine interest in and concern about. Volunteering is not a recreational activity: it’s a serious commitment. Here are 9 points to consider.

  1. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, and is there any connection to serving the community?
  2. What hobbies do you enjoy, and do they provide any opportunities for volunteering?
  3. What sports do you know well enough to coach or teach?
  4. What brings you joy and satisfaction?
  5. What social, political, or health issue are you passionate about?
  6. What are three organizations that you can identify that appeal to you? Choose the one that most appeals to you and research the group online.
  7. Will that group give you the opportunity to meet one of your professional or personal goals? Will you have an opportunity to connect with other people who will be supportive of your business?
  8. After visiting the group, do you still want to make a final commitment of your time?
  9. Are other group members satisfied with the organization?

Brought to you by Networking Now.

Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 362 –

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, CA. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan. How are you and where are you?

Hi Priscilla. I am doing great and as you know, I have been touring much of Europe for BNI. This week I am in beautiful Paris. I brought my wife and we are taking a little bit of time for ourselves as well as pulling away to do these very important podcasts.

Oh that sound wonderful. I wish I was with you.

It’s part of our 25th wedding anniversary, so it is, you know, probably just us.

Okay, well I won’t tag on to your trip.

Today we are going to talk about something I haven’t talked a lot about in podcasts. That is visibility through volunteering. Starting with my very first book – which most people don’t realize that The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret was actually my second book. My first book was Networking for Success. I think it sold 20 copies. Nobody knows about it.

But even in that book, I talked about the importance of diversifying your networks. Social organizations, I should say, were one of the kinds of groups that I recommended. In other words, volunteering. I have been pretty consistent with that over the years. I think volunteering is a great way to get visibility in the communities. So I recommend it.

What I thought I would do here for BNI members is kind of give some ideas on what kind of groups and what should you think about when you are volunteering for a service organization.

One of the first steps toward networking your business is to be more visible in your community. Remember that people need to know you. They need to like you, trust you, in order to refer you. Volunteering can actually position you in order for you to meet key people in the community- a connection with people who share your passion.

It gives you opportunities to demonstrate your talent, your skills, your integrity plus your ability to follow up and do what you say you are going to do. It instantly expands the depth and the breadth of your networking. It’s counter- intuitive. People don’t think with volunteering they are wasting their time from a business perspective. Not true. You are making great contacts.

I have made some amazing personal contacts that turned into professional relationships as a result in my involvement in various service clubs. Starting way back with Rotary, I was an active rotarian for over 16 years and participated in a children’s center. When I was a young man, I was a big brother. Now I am on a university board of trustees. Obviously, I have the BNI foundation. So I think volunteering is really important.

I believe that people who volunteer demonstrate their commitment to a cause without concern for personal gain. Thus, you should be volunteering with organizations which you have genuine interest in and concern about.

If administrators, volunteers or other participants think that you are only in it for your own gain, this visibility will actually work against you and it will undermine your goals. You have to remember that volunteering is not a recreational activity. It is a serious commitment to help fulfill a need in the community.

So to find an organization or a cause that relates with your interests, you need to approach volunteerism with a healthy level of thought and strategy. I am going to give you nine points to consider in participating in service organizations or volunteer organizations.

One: What do you enjoy doing for yourself in your spare time, and is there any connection to volunteering or service to the community in that area?

Two: What hobbies do you enjoy?

I’ll give you an example. I always enjoyed chess, so I volunteered for my son’s elementary school chess club for five years. It was a long term commitment, every week for about three months. I worked my travel schedule around that doggone chess club. But I loved it. It was a great time to spend with my son but also the community.

By the way, the best way to learn anything is to teach it, and I have learned more about chess when I was teaching elementary school kids- so that was a hobby I enjoy. I turned it into service for the community.

What sports do you know well enough to teach? I coached martial arts at children’s center for a number of years. So if there is a sport that you really enjoy, there may be a way to volunteer.

What brings you joy and satisfaction? What do you really enjoy doing? For me, it was the big brothers and now university. I really enjoy working- I think because I don’t teach at the university anymore, it’s great to be active in at least one way. For me, that brings me joy.

What social, political or health issue are you passionate about because it relates to you, your family or your friends? We have talked about, Priscilla, the Misner Plan in the past. There is a health issue. I do things in politics and religion but don’t usually talk about them in BNI. I find that they can be divisive in a network, but I am active politically and I am active in my religion. But health is something reasonably new since my diagnosis a few years ago and being told I am now in remission.

So I am really passionate about that. I actually coach a lot of people individually. Not for money. I am just volunteering. Misnerplan.com is a total volunteer effort. I talk to men, mostly men, sometimes women, about cancer and about health and nutrition as a way of addressing it along with other things that you do.

I am trying to give examples of what to do that might resonate with you. Now, the examples that I am giving here, Priscilla, may not resonate with them personally, but I want to give examples of how I use these in my own personal way to volunteer.

So you should be thinking about, if you are listening to this, what resonates with you. Health or politics or whatever. Find something that resonates with you and that relates to you. Then based on the answers to those five questions, here is number six:

What are three organizations that you can identify that appeal to you? It could be youth leagues, libraries, clubs, activist groups, church groups, homeless shelters. Choose the one or two that most appeals to you. I recommend one to start with that most appeals to you. Research the group online and in the community. That is number six.

Number seven: Now that you have researched the group, will it give you the opportunity to meet one of your professional or personal goals? If you make a connection there, will you have the opportunity to connect with other people that will be supportive of you in business in one way or another?

It certainly has been for me and my work with the Rotary Club years ago. Even serving meals in a homeless shelter, believe it or not, I made some great contacts with other business professionals who were like-minded. In my involvement with the children’s center- almost every place I have volunteered, I have made great personal and professional connections.

Think about what kind of connections you are looking for and then visit the group. Go visit the group and try it on. See if it is a good fit for you.

Number eight is now that you have visited the group, do you still want to make a final commitment of your time? Volunteering your time takes time and you have to commit to it. There is nothing worse than really saying you are going to fulfill some need that a service organization has and then letting them down, especially if you are talking about kids. That is really important.

And then number nine, are other group members satisfied with the organization? Talk to a few people who are in that group before you make the final commitment. Interview them. Find out what they think about the organization and what difference they are making in the community. I haven’t been able to do that in every organization, but most of the ones that I have participated in I have talked to several people who were part of that organization so that I could hear their opinions from the people where the rubber meets the road and they are doing the work.

So those are the nine things. What do you enjoy in your spare time? What hobbies do you enjoy? What sports do you know well enough to teach? What brings you joy and satisfaction? What social, political or health issue are you passionate about?

Then, based on those five questions, narrow it down to a few organizations. Research one of those groups. Visit one of those groups. Then talk to members that are in that group. Then, once you have researched it and talked to people, pick a group. Join a group. Begin to volunteer for the visibility piece of VCP- visibility, credibility, profitability.

You will find that you will also establish credibility. I really established credibility in my communities where I have lived by volunteering, by doing fundraisers at my house, by participating in the nonprofit boards.

Look for leadership roles. In the same way that I recommend that you be on the leadership team in BNI, look for leadership roles as you volunteer. You will find that puts you out in front. Show others how good you are at what you do.

So I would love to hear from BNI members. If you have anything that you would like to add, Priscilla, but I would also like to hear from BNI members. What organizations do you participate in and what questions do you recommend that someone asks that I didn’t cover today that might be of value to our listeners.

That’s my material for today, Priscilla. What do you think?

I think that’s great and I just want to say that I have done that by being on the board of directors on an arts and music organization called LivingJazz.org. It has been added to my life in so many ways and I have enjoyed it and participated in all their projects. I think it is just a great experience.

Yeah, you know, if you are volunteering in areas that you are passionate about, it doesn’t feel like hard work and it doesn’t feel like it is a really press on your time. And you are networking. People have told me that’s really important. I am beginning to believe it.

I think you’re right. I think that’s a wonderful podcast and I hope all of our members take advantage of your ideas.

Yeah, thank you. Remember, if you are in BNI, BNI is a great way to generate business. But don’t be a cave dweller. Get out, connect with your community and volunteerism is a great way to do that. I encourage you to do so.

By the way, BNI has a foundation. Every year, we do some fundraisers worldwide. If anyone is interested in supporting the BNI Foundation, which focuses on children and education, go to BNIfoundation.org. There is a way that BNI members worldwide can volunteer. Thanks, Priscilla.

Alright. Thank you, Dr. Misner. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by networkingnow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. Thank you so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.


  1. says

    Very nice. You know I have to say that I totally agree with statements as they apply to many but sadly not all. People who volunteer should demonstrate their commitment to a cause without concern for personal gain, so you should be volunteering with organizations that you have genuine interest in and concern about. Volunteering is not a recreational activity: it’s a serious commitment. I served the United States Marine Corps for 22 year, worked with the Boys and Girls clubs for many years as an instructor working with young people, worked with a group called Fairfax Families for Kids for several years working with children without parents, done the feed the homeless during Thanksgiving and Christmas for 7 years, done several breast cancer and cancer events for several years, instructed multiple community women’s self-defense classes each year for free at my school and volunteered at an instructor for the sexual assaults victims’ advocacy service for about 10 years teaching basic, advanced, and children’s resisting aggression classes, for six years we did an annual fundraiser event for St. Jude Children Hospital etc.. I neither got a cent or made a business connection from anything that I have done to date. It would have been nice and helpful but that is life I guess. Now I have written couple of books to also try to be a proactive force in a reactive world. What do and did I get out of it all I have been a part of the solution. So far I have helped many and my goal is to help several millions. Semper Fi!

    One of my students when I first met was failing many of his courses in school. Came back to help me with a project a month ago. This young not man only graduated high school but now has his Master’s Degree in Engineering. At the end of the event we did he was sharing with me that his University has given him a full scholarship to get his Ph.D in Engineering. Yes, he said yes. Note he is one of many successes. I am proud of and honored to have had a part in every one of the people’s lives.

  2. says

    Our family has been volunteering for years at our local theater ranging from acting, set building, ushering, etc…..anything that needs to be done. And, we just went to orientation last week to start volunteering at our local shelter because we wanted to do something we can do more of that the kids can participate in as well anytime. :)

  3. Nathan Langstaff says

    For better or worse, it’s not realistic to expect absolutely nothing from one’s volunteering actions. Desiring visibility, or to have one’s existence acknowledged, is not asking too much from volunteering. I think it a little audacious of any non-profit organization to expect absolute selflessness. The time of volunteers would cost the organization significant money otherwise.

    Yes, volunteer. Yes, choose causes that are deeply meaningful to you, but don’t feel the need to put yourself entirely on the back burner. Help your community, serve your audience, but don’t think it has to end there. Business made from charitable connections is absolutely acceptable.

  4. says

    Serving Is the key, Been in business for 24 years , Our company and my family and children volunteer in many things , special needs, church and our charity foundation, and traveling all over the world working with people in need in 3rd world countries.

  5. N. E. Tucker says

    Another question: Ask yourself what skills would you bring or contributions would you make to this organization …. especially if volunteering to serve on their Board of Directors. Many BODs seek one attorney, one CPA/accountant, one HR/personnel, one marketing/pr/sales/business development type person, etc. to add specific expertise during Board discussions. Do you have a knowledge base this organization needs?
    And another: As part of the research/consideration process, ask to view the organization’s job description for volunteers. Most (all?) most successful organization will have such. So both sides of the relationships have the same view of expectations. If no job description or volunteer commitment form exists, perhaps that could be your first volunteer effort. Share what you know from the for-profit business community by helping create those items.
    And to reiterate a previous thought: Do you have a passion for the mission of this organization?
    Ivan, as always, a thought-provoking, very beneficial topic. Thanks!

Solutions-focused comments are welcome