DHG Gives: Integrating Philanthropy Into My Career
New Town. New Job. Not a lot of Contacts
I’ve been at DHG since June of 2008 when I moved to Raleigh from Philadelphia. I had no real business network and was not connected to the community, aside from immediately joining the Homeowners’ Association Board of my condo building (naturally as the Treasurer).
I knew it would take time to get integrated with the firm, my neighborhood and the business networks but I regularly found myself contemplating how to join a board of a non-profit. Where do I even start? Am I qualified? What kinds of organizations really pull at my heartstrings? Something benefiting children? Or animals? Or something more civic in nature? I was all over the place with my thoughts and most of the time would end up back where I started… unable to find that link where I can help an organization with the skills I’ve developed over my career in public accounting (and I’m not just talking about helping with “the numbers” i.e. budgets & financials, but I’ll get to that later).
My struggle was real and lengthy but in 2012 something changed. I was selected to participate in the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Program. As part of this program, my group was required to undertake a philanthropic project. We worked with a local high school in Raleigh and developed a two-day Leadership & Professionalism program for ninth graders. The project has since grown to serve over 50 students per year, has been coined High Climbers and will one day be a full-fledged non-profit!
What I didn’t realize at the time was how creating High Climbers would put me in contact with so many incredibly connected and well-respected people in the community; from business leaders to high ranking officials in the school system. In addition, trying to create a successful non-profit made me see what I’ve been missing all along. I needed the help of so many people to make High Climbers run that I never realized what value I personally could bring to other non-profits outside of the proverbial treasurer, “numbers guy” role.
I was going to need the help, advice, financial support, in kind contributions of facilities and transportation to make High Climbers work. I was also going to need a few other people to serve as Advisory Board members who had more experience than I did in the non-profit world, in marketing and branding, legal, etc.
Selecting Where to Give my Energy
After this experience, I knew I could accept an offer to be on a non-profit Board and be confident that I would really add some value to the organization. Now I just had to figure out what kind of Board I wanted to join. I needed to be intentional about this and for me it came down to two really important factors: 1. The organization should be one that I really care about. One that I feel a personal connection to. 2. The organization should provide opportunities for me to expand my network and skill set.
Now that I knew what was important to me I had to figure out who could help plug me into organizations that openings. Here’s just a few recommendations: 1. Ask your office Marketing and Business Development professionals – they have a great pulse on the market. 2. Talk to your neighbors and friends about your desire to be involved more actively in a Board capacity. 3. Consider contacting the specific organization and volunteer and make it known how interested in the organization you are and would love to be considered for a Board position.
Real Skills for My Career
I’m honored to have joined two Boards the last 6 months. As part of the Holt Brothers Foundation, I am supporting kids who had a parent that died or was suffering/dealing with cancer. In October 2015, I received a call from the Executive Director of the Wake County SPCA, interviewed, and now serve on the Board.
So here I am in January 2016, 8 years after I moved to Raleigh, and I’m serving on two Boards and running the Board for High Climbers. While we’ve already have these great accounting skills, in these roles we can utilize an incredibly valuable skill set we’ve developed as public accountants. Here are a few that I’ve found valuable as it relates to being on a board: 1. Project management 2. Organization 3. Taking on difficult tasks 4. Managing different people with different personalities 5. Coming up with solutions that benefit all stakeholders
My Life Beyond Numbers
These commitments may require time away from the office, but the rewards are so much greater both personally and professionally. I’ve grown my professional network and improved my executive presence. I come back to the office refreshed and inspired to do my best for my clients, my staff and my community.
*Click here to read an article from the News & Observer about the 2016 High Climbers Leadership and Career Summit, featuring a video interview with Eric.
Eric focuses primarily in the restaurant/retail/franchising space along with manufacturing and distribution. When he’s not working, he enjoys going to the gym, running, traveling, reading about leadership and team building, and trying new restaurants with his wife.