Volunteering: An Unheralded Book Marketing Opportunity
What does volunteering have to do with book marketing? Nothing or everything, depending on how you approach it. If your focus is on relationship building (as any good SBM’s should be)*, volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded people and build relationships around a mutual cause or interest. Of course, you’re not going to walk into a volunteer opportunity, break out your card table and start selling books. But as you meet people and they ask what you do, you will have a chance to have one-on-one conversations that could open doors for you.
Consider these U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics from September 2011:
- 26.8 percent of the American population volunteers.
- People ages 35 to 54 are the most likely to volunteer (31 percent of that population).
- Educated folks are more likely to give their time (42.4 percent of those holding a BA or higher).
- Those working part-time are the most likely to volunteer (28.7 full-time; 33.3 part-time; 23.8 unemployed).
- Volunteers give an average of 51 hours per year.
- Most are involved with one or two organizations.
- Folks 65+ are more likely to volunteer through their church (44.9 percent), as are those with less education (47.8 percent of those with a high school diploma or less).
- Primary activities performed by volunteers include: fundraising (11 percent) and collecting, preparing, or distributing food (10.6 percent).
- Men are more likely to engage in general labor (13.3 percent) or get involved with a sports team as a coach, referee, or supervisor (10.1 percent).
- Women are more likely to do fundraising (12.6 percent); collecting, preparing, or distributing food (12.5 percent) or tutoring (10.7 percent).
General Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to expand your sphere of influence. One of the best ways to bond with new people or strengthen existing relationships is by participating in a shared activity. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. Volunteering can strengthen your community ties, broaden your network, enable you to meet people with common interests, as well as introducing you to community resources and fun, fulfilling activities.
Volunteering helps you expand your social and relationship skills. This can be particularly useful to authors who love to write but have a hard time with that whole “being visible” aspect of book marketing. While some people are naturally outgoing, others are more introverted and find it challenging to meet new people. Volunteering gives you a chance to practice and develop your social skills, since you meet regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once get more comfortable with your small group, it will likely become easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.
Volunteering can help you increase your self-confidence. Volunteering can give a boost to your self-esteem and satisfaction in life. Besides doing good for others and your community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment, volunteering can also give an enhanced sense of identity. Improved personal confidence will enhance every aspect of your book marketing campaign.
Yes, there is such a thing! If you have computer access and the necessary skills, some organizations now offer the opportunity to do volunteer work over the computer. This might take the form of giving free legal advice, typing a college term paper for a person with a disability, or simply keeping in contact with a shut-in who has e-mail. This sort of volunteering might be well suited to you if you have limited time, no transportation, or a physical disability that precludes you from getting about freely. Virtual volunteering can also be a way for you to give time if you simply enjoy computers and want to employ your computer skills in your volunteer work.
Volunteering can help you hone your skills. Volunteering can offers you the chance to use your current skills (ahem, you are a writer) or gain experience in a new field. Your volunteer work could also give you the opportunity you to connect with professional organizations or internships that could benefit your writing or book promotions.
Benefits of Industry-Specific Volunteering
- Behind the Scenes Tour – Volunteering for industry events is a great way to receive full access to the event without spending any money. Besides making yourself useful, you often have the opportunity to attend the entire conference or function in exchange for a little of your time.
- Inside Track to Becoming a Presenter – Opportunities come to those who are in the right place to capitalize on them. What better way to learn about speaking opportunities than by working with a conference organizer? Make a good impression with the tasks assigned to you, keep your ears open, and build your relationship with the conference organizer.
- Put Your Social Media Skills to Work – Virtually every organization wants to use social media, but very few have the proper time to dedicate to it. Demonstrate your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and/or blogging prowess and you will likely see your own visibility and traffic improve, too!
- CoBranding Benefits You – Once you’ve volunteered for a while, people naturally begin to associate you with the brands of the organizations you serve. Donating time to a popular, highly visible, and well-received organization can only enhance your personal capital as an author.
- Give Support, Get Support – Perhaps one of the best things about volunteering in an industry allied with the subject of your book is the opportunity to build a personal network of supportive individuals. You give to the organization with your time, but you also will likely receive an abundance of support for your work as you get more involved.
Determine Why You Want to Volunteer
I would not suggest going into a volunteer opportunity with marketing your book as your only goal. If, however, you want to make a difference while you expand your circle of friends and acquaintances, it may be the perfect vehicle.
In looking for an opportunity, consider your goals. What is important to you?
- To improve your local community
- To meet new people who may have had different experiences
- To try something new
- To do something constructive with your spare time
- To explore different ways of life and new places
- To dabble at the type of work you’re considering as a full-time job
- To do more with your interests and hobbies
- To do something you’re good at
Determining How You Want to Volunteer
There are absolutely no right or wrong answers to the following questions – only your answers. What would make you most happy in a volunteer situation?
- Would you prefer to work with other people or would you rather work on your own?
- Are you better behind the scenes or would you like to take a more visible role?
- How much time are you able and willing to commit?
- How much responsibility are you ready to take on?
- What skills can you bring a volunteer job?
- What causes are important to you?
Places to Find Volunteer Opportunities
- Community theaters, museums, art galleries, and monuments
- Libraries, neighborhood parks, or senior centers
- Service organizations such as Lions or Rotary clubs
- Youth organizations, sports teams, and after-school programs
- Historical societies and national parks
- Political organizations or campaigns
- Places of worship such as churches or synagogues
- Day care centers, Neighborhood Watch programs, public schools and colleges
- Halfway houses or drug rehab centers
- Fraternal organizations and civic clubs
- Hospitals, retirement centers, Meals on Wheels, and church or community-sponsored soup kitchens or food pantries
- Community choirs, bands, and orchestras
- Prisons or youth detention centers
- Shelters for battered women and children
- VolunteerMatch – An online volunteer search database which allows you to search for opportunities that match your volunteer interests, from location to type of work
- Idealist – A site that helps you find volunteer opportunities in your local area or internationally.
*Savvy Book Marketer
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