In this article, I’m going to switch up a bit from what I typically write for the Greater Wilmington Biz Journal. Please bear with me!
I’m a lawyer and an insurance broker. Yes, there are plenty of jokes that I’ve heard (and made) about both professions, but on any given day of the week, folks reach out to me and ask for help with their businesses and their lives. I’m fortunate because I love what I do, and I receive tremendous satisfaction from being able to provide such help.
Like most of you, these professional obligations keep me pretty busy. Despite this, I also make sure that I still find time to volunteer in our community. Why? For many reasons, but, ultimately, because it is a WIN-WIN-WIN.
Win #1: Your Community
When you volunteer in your community, you help to advance pro-social and economic causes that are important to everyone. For years, I have volunteered with Wilmington Downtown, Inc. (WDI) for downtown’s growth and economic development. WDI was founded in 1977 – originally known as the Downtown Area Revitalization Effort, Inc. – by volunteers like Gene Merritt. Back then, Gene volunteered A LOT of his time with then-mayor Ben Halterman to revitalize a downtown that was not living up to its true potential.
Since that time, countless volunteers have assisted WDI with this important work and the results speak for themselves. We have preserved our unique, historic look and feel while also bringing smart development to downtown. Thanks to all the volunteers, downtown now has tons of awesome businesses (and jobs!), fabulous places to live, excellent restaurants, and, most recently, the fantastic Live Oak Bank Pavilion. That’s just a partial list of all the wonderful things downtown has to offer. And, here’s the reality: had Gene (and many, many others) not volunteered their time over the years, I seriously doubt we would be where we are now. By extension, try to imagine what your volunteer efforts in your community could result in over time!
(By the way, if you’d like to read a great account by Gene of downtown’s history, please consider reading this article.)
Win #2: Yourself
Not only does volunteering help your community-at-large, but it also helps you, personally. I experienced this when I volunteered with Riverfest (occurring this year from October 1, 2021 - October 3, 2021!). Although there was certainly lots of work involved with getting the festival going each year, there was nothing like seeing the smiles on the faces of families as they made their way from a BMX trick show, to funnel cake, to the Kid’s Play Zone, and so on.
Similarly, through volunteering with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Legal Aid of North Carolina, I have been able to turn what would otherwise be a regular day or even just a few random hours into something meaningful for someone else. Even though someone else benefitted from your volunteer efforts, YOU, YOURSELF, will undoubtedly feel good when you have done right by someone else. As a different but related example, I know that I should work out more often than I do. I’m prone to excuses in this area, but when I eventually convince myself to go run or swim, the aftermath is glorious. My body has benefitted as has my mind. Volunteering for others has a similar effect to your overall wellbeing.
And let’s not forget that volunteering helps you to make friends with lots of very cool people! Who doesn’t want more cool friends?
Win #3: Your Business
Are human beings purely altruistic? Well, I’m not a philosopher (although I play one from time to time), but I doubt it. Even though I love what my volunteering has brought to my community and my own self, I also love that volunteering has a tangible benefit to my business. There is absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging this concept and it actually should be viewed as a healthy, symbiotic relationship between you and the others around you, where you all are benefiting. The simple reality is that while it is personally rewarding to your community and yourself, the value of your volunteering in your community is also one that inures back to your business as well. I say: Great!
Currently, I serve as the Vice President of the New Hanover County Bar Association. I volunteer along with a number of other fantastic lawyers in the community. As a consequence of this volunteer work, I know people I would have otherwise not known or only known from afar. Those people have referred cases to me, and I have referred cases to them.
But it doesn’t begin or end there. More significantly, in the context of the employee benefits business, I met and became close friends with the Principal of GriffinEstep Benefit Group, Hank Estep, through volunteer work. Hank also strongly believes in volunteering and has been one of the most visible volunteers in our community for some time, including efforts with the Azalea Festival, Airlie Gardens, WDI, and so many more groups and causes. Indeed, it was through our mutual interest in volunteering and, quite frankly, through countless hours spent together in those efforts, that we realized we would be a good business fit for one another. Had we not volunteered, we would not have known each other.
Similarly, because of the volunteer work that we have performed over the years, GriffinEstep’s clients have gotten to know us and trust us to be folks who aren’t simply in the business of providing insurance solutions. We are in the people business. We are in the friend business. We are in the community business. You can’t earn that trust by demanding it; you’ve got to live it every day. Volunteering is one of the best ways to do exactly that.
There is no question that volunteering is extra work. But, then again, work takes a lot of different forms. Some of it is directly related to your business. Some of it is indirectly related to your business. From my perspective, your business is best served when your community is growing and thriving, when you are personally fulfilled, and when your connections are expanded and strengthened. Volunteering in your community helps you to achieve all of those aims.
Dane Scalise is an experienced lawyer and insurance broker. As General Counsel and Insurance Broker for GriffinEstep Benefit Group, he helps people and businesses find creative and intelligent insurance solutions. Established in 1998, GriffinEstep is a leading independent, full-service insurance brokerage company with a team of consultants dedicated to clients, not insurance companies. GriffinEstep provides a unique combination of national expertise and local presence along with the knowledge, insight, and technology necessary to customize the individual insurance needs of its valued clients.
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