Random acts of kindness pull at the heartstrings of all of us, sometimes even making us a bit jealous that “it” didn’t happen to us. I suppose that little green monster is in all of humanity, even in its smallest measurable amount. But when was the last time you proffered philanthropy to another?
Just so we’re all on the same page, let’s define philanthropy. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, philanthropy is defined as, “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed esp. by the generous donation of money to good causes.” This is often referred to as “checkbook philanthropy.” Other than a check, there is little else involved.
This is a drastic derivation from the eastern philosophy of philanthropy, which is very minimalist: to give without the expectation of compensation. Compensation doesn’t always mean money, it could be “a favor for a favor,” or hoping for an introduction to someone, etc. While donating monies to a cause or campaign that you and your business feel worthy, at the end of the day, often your time is needed more than just a check.
I’m a virtual assistant, what can I offer?
A lot, especially some pro bono time. Many organizations, from churches to animal shelters to neighborhood organizations, all need a little bit of help. Maybe it’s a simple mail merge, designing a mailer, taking minutes, researching promotional items for an upcoming event. These are all things that a virtual assistant does for clients.. and can be done for as part of your philanthropy efforts.
Why should I consider this? Time is my most valuable commodity.
While time is your most valuable commodity, there is more to business then just making money. In addition to naturally expanding your networking through your volunteering efforts, the fact that you are willing to commit time to an organization and not make money off of it, shows your character. People see this (trust me) and understand that you are a giving, trustworthy, accountable person in business. Consequently, people will be more willing to refer your name out to their business associates, colleagues, or general acquaintances as a result, which will therefore generate some extra revenue for you to offset the free volunteer time that you invested in a cause that you believe in.
What about mentoring?
Mentoring is a great way to offer philanthropy to someone. Virtual assistant industry is rather unique in that we genuinely try to aid our competition by helping them learn, grow, and develop their practice to improve the industry. You don’t generally see lawyers mentoring other lawyers, or insurance agents mentoring other insurance agents. It’s just not who they are. Maybe it’s because the gender balance for virtual assistants tends to lean towards the females.
So.. What do I do?
Once you’ve committed to the practice of offering mentorship to other virtual assistants, you need to define how much time you can afford to donate and then find someone to mentor.
Identify your time based on your billable hours
As someone who mentors for SCORE, this can be one of the hardest things to identify. Personally in my practice, I allow everyone up to 20% of our billable hours to be donated towards philanthropy efforts. This includes mentoring for both SCORE and other virtual assistants, but also other volunteer efforts. You will need to find a percentage that you can afford – it may be 5%, it may be 25% but that is for you and your practice to decide.
Finding someone to mentor
This is pretty easy. Visit any VA group on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, or Virtual Assistant Forums. You will find someone saying they are new to the industry and don’t know how to get started. Strike up a conversation. We were all there once, and for many of us, we went it alone, started off on the wrong path and made some errors in our practice and business philosophies. Help someone avoid those pitfalls. Yes, you will be “helping your competition”.. so what?! There are more than enough clients out there.
Offering philanthropy as part of your business model is not only socially responsible but it is good for your well being and karma. Try it out for six months and see how things go. Come back and share your results – good or bad, I’d love to hear how things went for you. Come on.. step up to the challenge.