Volunteering Means Business Success for Women
25 September 2006 at 1:09 pm
A US study has found a link between early volunteering and community–based endeavours and successful professional women.
The study was conducted to find out when, how and why women in professional leadership capacities participate in volunteer and community-based endeavours outside of their careers.
The goal was to investigate the link between early volunteerism and the development of key work skills—”power skills”—that are enhanced throughout one’s professional career.
It incorporated questions about volunteerism on both a personal and a professional level, including involvement in schools/education, religious, NFP and community or cause-related organisations or activities.
The respondents provided statistical proof and related stories that revealed much about the connection between community service and business success.
For 75 of the 90 respondents (83%), leadership was the number one skill learned and honed through volunteer work. The individual interviews supported this even further. Survey respondents talked about the confidence they gained through NFP work and how it was directly transferable to the professional world.
Furthermore, 70 study participants cited communication skills and 66 selected fundraising/resource management as hard skills gained through volunteerism.
Having established that link, a further purpose of the study is to encourage businesses and individuals to value and foster Not for Profit involvement as a cost-effective avenue of professional development that benefits the business, the employee and the community at large.
The study, conducted for WOMENS WAY in the US by Markitects, Inc., an independent marketing and research company in Philadelphia.
Supporters and 300 members of The Forum of Executive Women were asked to participate in the study via an electronic, multiple choice e-mail vehicle. Ninety individuals responded by completing the survey online; in addition, 14 of those participated in more detailed one-on-one telephone interviews Womans Way says these findings suggest that Not for Profits and community-based endeavours have become an important, informal training ground for business leaders of today.
It says many participants were influenced at an early age by the volunteerism of parents, grandparents or other older mentors and friends. Thirty-nine percent of all respondents had begun volunteering by age 16, with 56 percent volunteering by age 22.
Many respondents expressed a strong desire to pass along their commitment to community service to their children and future generations.
Participants felt a responsibility to “give back” to their community from an early age.
Now that they have achieved success in their fields, most feel this duty even more keenly. Many are involved in civic and educational causes as well as activities with
which their children are affiliated.
Respondents’ primary source of personal satisfaction with volunteerism was most often commitment to a cause (73%). Other key motivators were being able to provide
expertise to organizations that needed it (63%) and creating connections with like-minded people (48%).
Although respondents have major personal and professional responsibilities, they make significant time for volunteerism. Fifty-eight percent of respondents devote at least 10 percent of their time to volunteerism, and 47 percent devote 11 to 26 percent of their time to such efforts.
Volunteerism helped many participants gain the skills and confidence to take on leadership opportunities that might otherwise have seemed intimidating or unattainable, particularly in the earlier stages of their careers. A core set of power skills, garnered from community service experiences, was directly transferable to the for-profit arena at all stages of participants’ careers. Leadership was the skill that 83 percent of participants listed as the most important skill gained from volunteering, followed by communication skills (78%) and fundraising skills (73%).
Participants clearly saw these skills gained from volunteering as key to their later business success.
The survey says it uncovered a multitude of competencies, talents and aptitudes that often go unrecognized and untapped by corporations. In an environment where traditional corporate training and education budgets have been reduced, volunteerism makes good business sense. It demonstrates good corporate citizenship while encouraging employees’ professional development.