It`s great that you give back to the community, but it can be difficult to volunteer and run a business.
When I went through something similar, I looked at my life plan and designated exactly how many hours I could donate to charitable causes whil managing my business.
When I reached my limit, I told new charitable requests that I just didn`t have any more time left, but I`d be happy to provide a discounted fee on services and/or referrals to other vendors. This way, I`ve been able to say "No" when necessary while still volunteering my time and running my business effectively.
Hope this helps,
There is Charity and then there is a Givers Gain. In my business we set a limit on how many folks we will sponsor in any given year. We will do web sites, print, host non-profits, shopping carts and other services for "free" for the places we have chosen to sponsor. Even though we give away time and sometimes funds to complete what they need we Always get in return. It is called goodwill. Goodwill always comes back. Not only does it help us in word of mouth through these sponsored companies but in the community. We also feel good about doing it and appreciate having the opportunity in helping these non-profits or even some for profits rise in standing. We do have a set number per year, but we will listen to cases on a case by case basis. We also have a waiting list. We organize it so we can handle it and that it does not hinder our money making efforts but increases them. For Instance, we completed a web site for a new local semi pro soccer team and will be sponsoring there shopping cart and hosting accounts. We get our information on the web site, and it also has created a great word of mouth campaign through the fieldhouse they play on, there business partners, community members in business and not. I have built great working relationships with the team photographer and the owner of the fieldhouse, all the team players and other connected parties. This has increased my business. Another example. I am working on a local web site that a consumer advocate wants because he is a home inspector and wants local folks to be able to find quality contractors and for the consumer to rate them. I was referred by someone in a business that knows that I AM the person to go to when someone wants something done without having lots of funds to get it going. I listened to the gentleman over lunch, that I paid for and looked at his idea and and was amazed at how he was prepared to show me how I can benefit if i help him get it going. He had diagrams, research and lots of other information selling his idea to me. I not only agreed to build upon his idea for no fee up front but created added ways to bring revenue in through his idea. All my work will be upfront , about 40 hours of programming and design by my team. After that I will have created a residual and consistant revenue stream for however long i want to that i did not think of. Also added to my group of relationships in the community. All this for 40 hours....I think of it as my upfront investment. The only reason i have this added opportunity is because I am The GUY (girl) who people know to send folks too. Money is not always in forms of Green, you have to be open to listen.
For Every project I have done without up front cost to a client.....always a client and never charity. I have reaped numerous benefits.
I like being that person who people send my way. I like giving someone a hand up in life, if i can. I also like to make money and build upon the business`s i have created.
Charity is different than goodwill. I think of the word opportunity when someone send someone my way. I think of the words relationship, building a community, giving a hand up...I think of Success. You have to have people around you to support your success if you want to stay there.
Within my life plan/business plan, I have designated a portion of time and/or funds I will contribute each year. As a result I frequently volunteer to help with community related fundraisers; scholarship fundraisers; scholarship interview committees; and mentoring programs. I also provide contact information on real estate related programs with people who have low to moderate incomes and/or who are experiencing difficulties due to life altering circumstances, i.e. job loss. Todate I haven`t made a penny from helping them but I am grateful to have been in the position to be what I hope was a blessing to them.
This is an a very interesting topic for me. Up until I recently created my business I freely offered advice to my friends and their children on how to improve their odds for getting accepted to college. And now that I have created a business, those close to me think I should automatically work pro bono for them also since they know me. Its hard for me to refuse since I know their kids, and I want to see them do well, it is hard for me to say no.
The flip side I guess is that I can use their success stories to further build my reputation.