Leveraging Memberships to Boost Business, Improve Community

October 16, 2023 by

As a young professional I was very interested in becoming active in my community. Of course, I knew that this would help my business career but I also had the philosophy, from an early age, that we all stand on someone else’s shoulders. We owe the people who came before us a contribution to the present as well as the future.

I asked a co-worker if his father, a Rotarian, would take me to a meeting. He not only did that but proposed me for membership.

Shortly after becoming a Rotarian, a member pointed out to me that some people are “joiners” while others are “doers.” Some, of course, are neither. I’ve found great benefit in building my career by being a joiner, as well as a doer.

Most agencies, in my experience, encourage employees and partners to join civic and other organizations for visibility and the connections they bring. But as a long-time doer, I can tell you that simply joining does little good for anyone and in fact can actually harm one’s reputation. So, if you have joined, or plan to join a board, civic club, or other community organization, I’d like to encourage you to be active and participate as fully as possible.

Not only are the doers the people who become best known, they generally are the most respected. Over time, a doer’s network grows and the value of it will increase exponentially, particularly in comparison to that of the joiner.

There is a third type of joiner, different than either the doer or the free loader – the “opportunist.” Opportunists are typically people who quickly move from joining an organization to prospecting other members. Generally, the most influential people in any organization, often those who can be the best insurance prospects, have little regard for opportunists.

So, the very best strategy for maximizing the personal, or business benefits, of joining community organizations is to become a doer and seek to create value for the organization or community. This involves simply putting others first, which is what the best agents always do anyway. Business will come, probably faster and easier with this approach than any other.

With this in mind, here are some of the best opportunities for building a strong network while making a positive impression and difference in your community.

Civic Clubs

Exploring Rotary, Lions Clubs, Kiwanis, and other civic organizations can be a great first step to building a professional network.

Often, there are a limited number of people in any profession in a given club, which means you have the opportunity to meet people from varied backgrounds and professions. The clubs themselves have regular social opportunities to get acquainted and become friendly with other businesspeople. Usually, members of other nonprofit boards, associations and organizations in the community are also civic club members, so joining one, and pitching in, is often a way to become quickly involved in other opportunities.

Nonprofit Boards of Directors

There are virtually endless numbers of charitable and nonprofit organizations in any community. Each has a board of directors guiding its work and often have auxiliary groups that participate in supporting activities. Actively joining one or more of these organizations is a great way to not only participate and give back to your community but also to build your professional network.

If the organization is large enough, they may have a junior or auxiliary board. Joining one of these is a great way to get your feet wet, often with other younger professionals. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment, hard work and contribution, which can lead to additional leadership opportunities.

With so many choices, it is important to think through where you can have the greatest impact given your own personal circumstances and interests. Choosing wisely can lead to a lifetime of contribution, friendship, connection and even business growth in the end. Be careful not to commit to more organizations than you can make a positive contribution to. Overcommitting and then underperforming will result in short tenures, frustration for you and a diminished reputation.

Leadership Development Organizations

In all states and most communities there are existing organizations that serve to expose rising leaders to opportunities and challenges in their states and communities and to develop the capabilities of these rising leaders to meet them.

I first participated in “Leadership Oklahoma City” many years ago, which gave me exposure to many things I didn’t know much about. Importantly, I also met people who were involved in pursuits I wasn’t familiar with, made many lifelong friends and had the chance to develop my own leadership abilities. Later I participated at the statewide level in “Leadership Oklahoma” and broadened my knowledge, capabilities, connections, and opportunities for contribution still further.

Usually, these organizations are highly selective and past contributions in the community are a requirement for consideration. So, as you develop your network, civic involvement, and leadership contribution, these organizations can become an excellent accelerator.

Industry Association Involvement

Almost all agencies are joiners of their local and state professional associations like the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers Association of America (Big I) and National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA). And while your agency or individual dues, PAC contributions and convention attendance can be valuable, becoming a doer is much more valuable and can be much more fun.

For agents under 40, the Big I’s Young Agents program can be an excellent way to make lifelong friends, professionalize competition and develop connections that may be useful in growing your career or your agency.

Often, state associations have leadership training programs that can help you make a more valuable contribution and accelerate your professional development. Board of directors involvement can eventually be a very satisfying and enjoyable way to give back to the industry that supports your business and career.

And, ultimately, you will feel a sense of self-satisfaction in the fact that your association participation provided a means for you to give back, contribute and improve opportunity for those that follow you.

Connecting the Dots

Insurance professionals are typically outgoing people by nature. Usually our industry attracts people who, while they may be personally ambitious, are interested in making their communities better. So, being a joiner is natural and enjoyable. Ambitious people, especially driven ones, are also by nature doers. Because of this, they often make the very best board members, civic club members and volunteers in general.

The payback for them in committing to the time and effort involved can be tremendous. You get to meet and make friends with many people like yourself, which is fun and rewarding. As a bonus you have the opportunity to be a real difference maker in ways that not only benefit your community but are personally fulfilling and rewarding. For those who are patient, there are also benefits of carefully building a solid reputation as a thoughtful and caring person who can be counted on. The business return on such an investment can be incalculable.