Habitat for Humanity 12-12-09I had the opportunity to participate in a very meaningful volunteer project this month with the Young Professionals (YPs) of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce — a Habitat for Humanity project in Newburgh, NY (www.habitatnewburgh.org). I must confess that I’ve always wanted to do a Habitat project so I was thrilled when the YPs decided to take this on as their community service project. And I was not disappointed!

There’s something so satisfying about Habitat’s work; you really get to see the fruits of your labor. Most YPs painted for the day. I hauled materials, loaded up dumpsters, and even got to “organize” in the warehouse a bit! I also had the chance to see their store (aptly named Restore) for the public to purchase used furniture, supplies, and materials.

They require all volunteers to take a mid-morning break and gather in one location for refreshments, food, announcements, and acknowledgements. They recognize groups of volunteers and express their gratitude for all the volunteers’ assistance. They share stories about families that have benefited from Habitat’s assistance, which makes you realize even more the direct impact of the work you are doing.

I may have been sore the next day, but it was a really rewarding experience, and I was very impressed with Habitat. If you are looking for a volunteer project, definitely consider Habitat. I know the YPs plan to volunteer again in 2010, and I very much look forward to it!

One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.  ~ Sidney Howard

Recently, I was asked to take on two separate leadership positions for two different organizations that I am a member of. While both offers were extremely tempting, I knew right away that there was no way that I could say yes to both positions, and do both with finesse. Every time we say yes to something, we say no to something else. Therefore, I made a difficult phone call to the incoming President of one of those organizations to explain to that although the offer was tempting and I appreciate his faith in me, I needed to turn down the offer in order to accept the leadership position for the other organization.

This made me think about how in all aspects of life, we sometimes have to ‘just say no’ to some offers in order to do the best job that we can with the things that we say yes to. I realized a long time ago that we can’t do it all. Well, not if we want to do the things we commit to well. In order to give 100% to every volunteer leadership position that you take on, you need to carefully consider what that role involves and whether you are able to bring your all to the table. If you can’t, the better answer (albeit often the harder one to give) is “No.”

The following guidelines have helped me to make the tough decisions as to what to say yes to and what to say no to with regard to taking on volunteer leadership positions for business or civic organizations. I hope they assist you, as you decide what falls within your ‘absolute yes’ list and what you will ‘just say no’ to.

  • Does it Improve Your Business or Further Your Industry? – When I first joined my local and county chambers of commerce, I was the first and only professional organizer to be a member. Not only did this bring an amazing amount of exposure to my business and what I did, it also helped further the professional organizing industry as a whole.
  • Will it Enhance Your Reputation? – Think about whether it will enhance your reputation in terms of aligning yourself with this group. Also, what if you take on the position and do not do a good job? Think about whether you can give 100% and shine in the position. If you can’t, then it may have a negative effect on your personal and professional reputation.
  • Is it a Cause That You Believe in? – Sometimes you take on a volunteer position not so much for the position itself, or even for the tasks you will be doing, but because the organization’s work or agenda furthers a cause that you so deeply believe in or value. For example, many people serve as board members of organizations that specialize in cancer research, homeless shelters, Habitat for Humanity, etc. The list goes on depending on the causes that you believe in.
  • Been There, Done That – Will it be a repeat performance? For example, the offer I just turned down would have been my second term in the same exact position. I’ve watched this organization grow and expand, and feel it is in a good place right now, and that my time has already been well served. It is time to move onto leadership positions within other organizations and take on new and exciting projects to bring in fresh ideas and energy. The organization I am saying yes to is one I have been involved with for several years, but I have never held a leadership position within it, so this is a new experience and one I look forward to.
  • Can You Afford the Financial Commitment? – Most organizations expect their board members and other leadership volunteers to give freely of their time and expertise. But some organizations take that a step further and also expect their members to give a certain amount of financial commitment. One example is Rotary International, where the members give financial support and choose worthy causes within the community to be the recipients of those funds. Be sure to ask what level of financial commitment is expected, and ask yourself whether you can realistically meet it before saying yes.
  • When in Doubt, Follow Your Gut – Regardless of the above criteria, you will probably know if you should ‘just say no’ based on your gut reaction to the request to serve. If you are asked to serve in a volunteer capacity or leadership role for an organization, and you cringe at the idea, with no trace of excitement, follow your intuition and say no! Yes, a certain level of fear or anxiety may be normal when asked to serve as a volunteer in a leadership capacity for an organization. You may be nervous about being in the spotlight, meeting new people, how to juggle this new role with all of your other responsibilities, etc. But, often times, people say yes purely out of obligation when the ‘real’ answer is quite obviously staring them in the face based on their gut reaction. If your gut screams no, follow it!