No matter if you are just starting our in your career and looking to gain experience, or just itching to do something, well, meaningful, a great way to expand your network while increase your altruistic net worth is to volunteer your time with charitable fashion organizations. Whether you choose to help support an organization with behind-the-scenes help, volunteering your time and services either as a board member or just supportive citizen, or to donate directly, either through a proceed of sales, income or a ticket to the event of the year, there are an endless number of non-profit organizations looking for your gifts.
The trick is to find an organization that you click with, with strong organizational processes, leadership and a mission that you not only vaguely support, but that makes sense based on your personal history or the work that you do. Elissa Kravetz was inspired to create the non-profit arm of Kravetz PR, The Farley Project, out of personal experiences with bullying as a child, while Diane von Furtenburg sits on the board of Vital Voices, a women’s leadership organization that empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the world. Of course, you can also get involved by doing all the things you already do, but smarter, like using Enlightened.org to shop, thus simultaneously earning back a percentage of your purchase, for the charitable impact of your choice. When you are thinking about starting to work with an organization, here are 5 things to determine:
Is this a cause I am truly passionate about?
What issues or problems give you that wobbly, teary, itchy, angry feeling? When you are working for free, it’s your own personal commitment to the cause that will keep you motivated and coming to the organization with your best ideas and best self. As a publicist you know how much more effective you are when you are truly excited about a client, the same goes for your volunteerism.
What is the reputation and financial health of the organization?
Much in the same way that you would vet any potential employer or client, take some time to dig around and find out as much as you can about the organization. How long have they been around, how are they reflected in the press? Who are the board members and who do they work for. Make sure the key players are aligned with your personal values, and that you are aligning yourself with an organization that you can be proud of. Check out the website watch any videos from events or different programs to get a feel for how the mission is being communicated through action.
What do I want to learn?
Consider what type of work you want to be doing and be sure those opportunities exist within the organization you are vetting. You may be looking for fashion show event production experience, or to work on a committee with an entrepreneur you have always admired. Perhaps you want to better understand how non-profits are run, because you might want to start your own one day. Or, you see value in connecting your clients to the organization as corporate sponsors or are looking for leadership experience. Beyond the inherant value that comes from doing good, what is the goal of the participation for you personally and professionally. Getting clear on your whyis everything when it comes to entering into a volunteer situation with clarity of purpose.
Who are the other people involved?
It’s important to make sure that the other people you will be working with, particularly if you join a board, have the experience and leadership necessary to get things done. If you are the person with the most professional experience, you will likely not get the level of support you, or the organization, needs. Ideally you should be excited about the opportunity to work with and learn from at least three of the people you will be working with. Before saying yes, think about what learning opportunities there are for you. You may want to agree to take on a position that will give you the opportunity to grow your own skills, and learn from others.
What is my availability, really?
For organizations running mostly on volunteer support, it’s really important that you be able to keep any commitments. It’s better to commit to one weekend a month, than to take on a role within the organization you are unable to sustain. If you commit to five hours a week, consider that time blocked off, just as you would for an important client. Conversely, ask your contact if there are any recurring planning meetings you will be expected to attend, as well as if you need to be on location vs completing work from home or at the office.