We do a lot of market research and one of the interesting findings has been how often the nonprofit folks who read VolunteerMatch blog posts, buy VolunteerMatch books, and attend VolunteerMatch webinars do so for personal reasons.
That is, they aren’t being paid or directly encouraged by their organizations to become better at their jobs this way. They just want to improve — all by themselves. They want to make a bigger impact in their work.
To me this is true professional leadership. And while, yes, getting better at your job is likely to also lead to a promotion, more pay, and better opportunities, in the nonprofit world it’s fundamentally NOT about getting into a corner office or joining a board. It’s about striving to be as useful and impactful as possible in the limited time we have available.
I was thinking about this phenomenon the other day as I prepped for the 2011 Net Impact Conference, which takes place in Portland next week. The annual shindig of San Francisco’s Net Impact, the conference is meant to be an inspiring and serious exploration for students and professionals of how to bring meaning and purpose into our working lives.
The Triple Bottom Line… And Your Own Personal Bottom Line
While the major themes of Net Impact look pretty much like a hit list of Triple Bottom Line topics (Corporate Impact, Energy & Clean Tech, Environment & Natural Resources, Finance & Investing), what sets this event apart is its focus on the needs of attendees as individuals and not necessarily as representatives of specific companies or organizations.
Thus Career Development is also a central theme, as is hearing the stories of individuals and even families that are pioneering new avenues in purposeful work while also staying committed to personal ideals.
Importantly, Net Impact’s conference is an opportunity for attendees to really think about our own roles in the movement towards sustainability. What is my personal mission? How do I want to work? What is my commitment to becoming more useful, innovative, and collaborative in my work?
For those of us in the nonprofit sector, the idea of bridging meaning and work is fairly self-evident. But Net Impact, which counts more than 20,000 members in its 280 worldwide chapters, sees a bigger opportunity to remove the artificial borders between purpose and profit, and as such its conference – which expects more than 2,500 folks this year — can truly say to be at the heart of the triple bottom line movement.
As for me, OK. I’ll definitely be there to talk about volunteering, using your skills, and giving back as a strategy for moving ahead and creating social change. But I’ll also be there considering my own personal path. Here are some of the sessions I’ve book marked:
Robert led VolunteerMatch's communications until 2014 and is editor of Volunteer Engagement 2.0. Today he lives in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he works with VSO, the leading INGO involving volunteers in the fight against poverty.