The Art of Networking – Volunteering

The Art of Networking – Volunteering

This is part two of our creative business series. The Art of Networking: How to Use Volunteering as a Useful Tool to Gain Contacts and References.

If you’ve been practicing your networking skills at creative events, maybe you’re ready to move on to an outer circle and meet professionals in your field.


Volunteering for an organization is an easy way to meet new people and make a difference in your community. Through volunteer efforts you can acquire or enhance existing skill sets, obtain a certification, gain confidence, and attend professional events. Whether you are looking to gain early work experience or change careers, volunteering allows you to experience different jobs, industries, and types of working environments without a full-time commitment. Sometimes volunteering is a simple means to get out of the house and be around the things you love to do.

Personal Benefits of Volunteering your Time

  • Meet new people and stay connected to your community
  • Learn a new skill or enhance an existing skill
  • Pass your knowledge/expertise to others
  • Provide a sense of purpose
  • Reduce stress
  • Gain confidence
  • Try out a new job or industry
  • Gain personal references for career advancement

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands—one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

Volunteering as a Networking Tool

As an independent artist often working alone, volunteering can be a great tool to make the contacts needed to further your business goals. Volunteering as a strategic networking tool is also helpful if you are interested in meeting professionals working in your creative field to share and promote ideas and services. Making the most of your volunteer time specifically for networking purposes takes a little thoughtful planning. The benefits won’t happen overnight. It takes time to nurture and gain trust.

Here are some tips for effective volunteering to help you enhance both the quantity and quality of your creative network and make your experience profitable.

  1. Pick Your Passion
    There is no right or wrong organization to become involved with, but working at an organization that falls in line with your specific type of creativity will make for a more meaningful experience. Make a list of your passions and interests related to your creative business. This list will help you think past the most obvious organizations, professional associations, and groups. One example: For a multi-media artist who works with nature photography and collages of native Texas plants, volunteering as a dog walker during lunch is a worthy cause and provides important health benefits, and gets you close to nature, but volunteering at the state botanical garden puts this artist in contact with more like-minded artists, and native plant enthusiasts.
  1. Value Your Time
    Commit a specific amount of time to volunteering with networking goals in mind. Spend enough time at an organization to help them meet your mutual goals, but not so much time that it begins to keep you from your commitments to your work, family and/or friends. Remember to keep in mind the goal of enhancing your network. Look for opportunities to meet other volunteers or members of the organization that relate to your creative work. If you are interested in attending an industry conference, consider volunteering at the event. No task is too small if it gets you in the door and in front of the people you want to meet.
  1. Leverage Your Talent
    Once you find an organization that falls in line with your passion, think about matching your talents with their needs. Finding an organization that has the potential to leverage your specific talents as an artist, musician, or performer will provide more meaningful networking contacts than one that does not. You might have to start collecting tickets at the door before you are asked to perform at an event, but if the organization that you volunteer for only books children-themed performers and your performance is geared for adults—maybe it’s not the right fit.
  1. Track Your Work
    Keep track of everyone you meet and talk up the organization and the work that you are doing. Think about the people you know and the people you are meeting through your volunteer efforts, maybe you can help make important connections. Don’t forget to track the work that you are doing for an organization to use when asked for or providing a reference. You can remind others of your contribution throughout the years. Depending on the type of volunteer work you choose, you might be able to use the experience on your resume or networking apps like LinkedIn.
  1. Depart with Grace
    If you find that the organization does not fit your needs, depart with grace and give the organization a respectful amount of time to find a replacement. Always try to honor your commitments even if they are not a perfect match – then move on. Always be kind and do your best to be generous and helpful to the people you come in contact with. The people that you meet in the incompatible organization might move into another organization that you’ve been looking to join. Remember, the goal is to enhance your professional network, and, although a volunteer you worked with during your lunch time dog walking gig might not be interested in your creative field, they might be the second degree friend, partner, parent, sibling, or co-worker of the contact that will help you meet your creative goals.

group of volunteers and clients posing for a photo

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
Remember, giving back to the community you love can be easy and fun while helping you reach your creative goals at the same time. If you don’t feel comfortable volunteering by yourself, consider volunteering through an organization (church group, athletic team, service group, etc.) or gather a group of friends with like-minded values. Volunteering is a great opportunity to get together with friends while working on something you find meaningful.

I hope you enjoyed this latest addition in our business advice for creatives including the previous article “The Art of Networking” with some useful tips for artists who are anxious about the networking process. I would love to hear what you thought about this article! Email me at [email protected].

If you are interested in volunteering with Art Spark Texas, we have a general list of volunteer opportunities available here.

Gina Panza Woodruff
[email protected]

1 thought on “The Art of Networking – Volunteering”

  1. Pingback: THE ART OF NETWORKING – VOLUNTEERING – The Austin Creativity Coach

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