Getting involved in your community can help your finances in ways you may not ever have considered.
The Republican convention brought the issue of "community organizers" front and center. While some Republicans mocked Barack Obama's community service, he countered that it is the foundation of what makes our cities and towns better. Since you are not likely going to be running for president, the debate on whether community service is a valuable leadership skill is moot. That should not, however, keep you from pursuing it.
While volunteering for community service is often viewed as altruistic, the truth is that it can also offer you a variety of benefits, including your personal finances. Here are a few somewhat selfish reasons to help out your neighbor:
Being a community activist will put you in a position to meet people you would not likely meet otherwise. You will be in contact with those that need help or have the financial means to provide help. While these contacts may not be in your field of employment, they can still be valuable. It's amazing how community connections can surface when you least expect them. It's never a bad thing to have a large list of contacts to call upon.
Show and Improve Your Skills:
Taking a central part in your community will give you an opportunity to showcase your skills. There is always a great need for volunteers. By showing what you can do, you create the opportunity for word-of-mouth marketing. For example, if you have good computer skills, using them to help the community may develop other computer-related opportunities. By taking charge in areas where you have strong skill sets, you will create a good name within the community, which can be a huge positive for your business.
At the same time, doing community work gives you an opportunity to work on skills you may want to improve. Since there are always issues that need to be addressed, taking on projects in areas where you may not have a lot of experience can help you gain it. These new skills can then be transferred to your own job to improve your standing there.
By taking an active role in your community, you can help to shape the policies that your community creates and lives by. If there are certain issues important to you, being part of the community will allow you to express these and lobby for them. While many of these policies probably won't have a direct effect on your pocketbook, some can. By being an active part of the community, you are better positioned to help move the community in a direction that you feel is positive for all.
Discounts and Perks:
Taking the time to help out the community is something appreciated by a lot of people. By being involved, you will likely get invitations to join groups, which often have perks associated with them. This can mean discounts on services and free use of community buildings.
While there is no guarantee that helping others will yield help in return, there is a much greater likelihood of it happening. People remember when they are in need and that you have lent a hand. The community as a whole, as well, takes notice of people that take the time to help make it a better place. If a time comes when you find yourself in need, there is a good chance that there will be a long line of people willing to lend you a helping hand just as you had done.
Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.