Like most working parents, I run around most of the time like a chicken with my head cut off. I want to do so much but I always feel like I could do more, especially for my community. Well, it's National Volunteer Month so it's a great time to take inventory of your life and see how you might be able to give back.
When I think of role models who give back, Tere Blanca immediately comes to mind. Tere is one of the few women in commercial real estate who has a proven track record and is well respected by men and women in her field. She is founder, president, and CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, the leading independent full-service commercial real estate brokerage in South Florida. She's a working mother AND she has held prestigious positions as past chair of The Beacon Council and member of the Board of Governors of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce among all kinds of other positions in the community. Tere's company encourages volunteerism among its employees by underwriting the costs of charitable work, donating money to organizations her employees are involved with, and providing paid time off to volunteer.
Today, Tere is my guest blogger and I'm thrilled to have her weigh in on how she balances work, life, and volunteering. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tere's Motto: Volunteerism Drives Business Success
At my company, our passion for social causes has proved one of our most important business differentiators and drivers, helping establish our business in the midst of the 2009 economic downturn and propelling our sustained growth.
The game-changing volunteering I’m referring to goes beyond writing checks, sitting on boards, and occasionally attending galas and events. It involves identifying causes near to our hearts that we are personally passionate about, rolling up our sleeves, and generously donating our time and talents to meaningfully advance the organizations' missions.
I founded the firm on a non-negotiable pillar of giving back, encouraging volunteerism among all brokers and employees by underwriting charitable work, donating financial resources to the organizations we support, and providing paid time off to volunteer. This linked us with our community, giving us a close feel for its pulse, and enabling us to forge strong partnerships and networks while engaging on deep, human levels.
I did this simply because I wanted to give; I later realized it would drive incredible success, with some major national clients selecting us in part for our deep local community ties, having witnessed first-hand our abilities while involved in volunteer work or leading the charge to positively impact our community.
Another essential driver of business success is the ability to attract and retain talent, which also is enhanced through corporate social responsibility. Research shows most employees consider “contributing to society” indispensable for an ideal job. Millennials who participate in workplace volunteer activities are more satisfied and loyal.
Despite running a demanding business and raising a family, I have been able to find ample time to pour my heart into causes that deeply resonate with me. Often, I am asked, “How do you do it?”
Here is some of my best advice:
First, take a deep look within yourself and identify causes that you are truly passionate about. Identify the best organizations and opportunities that allow you to engage at a meaningful level in supporting those causes. Before committing, get to know the organizations and their boards well upfront to confirm there is a fit. As part of that process, develop an accurate understanding of the time commitment and expectations involved.
Next, understand how much time you can reasonably contribute every month and week. For first-timers, it is best to start small and build on your success. It is better to make meaningful contributions to one or two organizations than to join six boards and do a minimal amount of non-impactful work for each. This also avoids over-committing and letting folks down when you realize you cannot attend all the board meetings or have to withdraw from the organization.
Then, when you have decided what organizations you want to join, develop a written plan for your involvement. If you have marketing or public relations support at your company, it is helpful to engage their expertise in this process. Obtain a list of board meetings and key activities upfront and bake them into your calendar.
Most importantly, make sure your team at work and your family at home are well aware of these commitments and ready to support you when needed. Proper planning also can help you identify non-essential activities that may be delegated or cut from your schedule. Something as simple as ordering in dinner rather than preparing a meal can free up your evening. Also, do not be shy to ask for support from your family and co-workers; after all, community is a fabric woven of individual lives and efforts. When we all do our part, no matter how seemingly small or trivial, the whole is strengthened and bettered.
I find it inexcusable that South Florida ranks last among 51 major metros for its volunteer rate. It also is bad business. For example, when we support City Year Miami’s mission to help keep students in school and on track to graduate, ready for college and careers, we’re building a better tomorrow for everyone: one with a broader talent pool, lower crime rates that result in lower insurance costs, and a society that is better equipped to attract business investment, fuel economic growth and enjoy a higher quality of life.
To paraphrase Horace Mann, “Doing nothing for our community is the undoing of business.”
Photos below are Tere in action!