Commit to an extracurricular organization for greater benefit
In a recent discussion about networking, a friend asked me what value “networking” organizations bring, i.e. Lions Club, Rotary Club, Executives International or Professional Women’s Network. This list also could include university alumni clubs, volunteer organizations and religious organizations. For simplicity, let’s call these extracurricular organizations.
The benefit of these organizations is that they give you access to diverse types of people outside your normal sphere of activities. This diversity is especially valuable when you are searching for something new – new ideas for innovation, information about new markets or a new job. A famous article by Mark Granovetter said that far more job seekers found jobs through “weak ties” (28%) that through close contacts or people whom they saw at least twice a week (17%). Extracurricular organizations are an excellent way to build relationships and credibility with diverse contacts who can make a difference for your business or your career.
To get real benefit from organizations like this you need to commit. If you go to an event once in a while, you may meet an interesting person and if you really make a connection, follow up for a coffee. But more than likely, the relationship doesn’t progress further. Greater benefits come after you have become more active in the group through regular attendance, offering to organize a special event or joining the board. Through shared activities you get to know people on a deeper level.
You get out of it what you put into it
Many extracurricular organizations are facing challenges to maintain their membership and financial support. One US study suggests that only 25% of people volunteer, in spite of its many benefits. We are more and more busy with work and family, leaving less and less time for extracurricular activities. Plus there has been an explosion of options so people have choice. They can participate in a wide range of networking organizations, alumni clubs or service organizations. If they don’t like one, they can always leave for another.
One result is that fewer people feel committed enough to contribute to the heavy lifting of the group’s activities, for example by taking responsibility for organizing events, serving on the board and providing financial support through membership fees or donations.
It feels like many are keen to say “I am too busy”, “I focus only on the activities that interest me” or “I can help with this but not more”. At a personal level, setting boundaries is good. The challenge is that at an organizational level, more and more of the work falls on fewer and fewer people. Ultimately someone has to fill in the gaps or everything falls apart.
Think about the organizations where you are involved or new ones you would like to join. As the year comes to a close, consider making a new year’s resolution to give more, not less in 2019. How can you make more of a commitment? Where can you be more generous in sharing your talents? Where can you help to fill the gaps?
Really giving to an organization can pay substantial benefits by diversifying your network, strengthening your relationships and advancing your health and your career. When you give more to organizations you care about, you spend time with people whose passions you share and who energize you. The trust you develop by working together in a volunteer capacity can have benefits for others parts of your life as well. You may develop new skills, make new friends or find new business opportunities.
In this time when it feels like the world is breaking up, making a stronger commitment to an organization important to you can be one way to make your piece of it more meaningful.
Questions for consideration
1. What extracurricular organizations do you belong to? Do you benefit from knowing the diverse people in the organization?
2. Is there one organization where you could give more in 2019? Set yourself a goal and see if this brings you more energy and positive outcomes.
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