While charitable causes are the focus, service clubs provide a win-win opportunity that could also be a benefit to your business


Service clubs have gained a bit of a reputation for being old and stuffy. But don’t write off this great American tradition just yet. These clubs have a global impact, but are rooted in your very community.

If you aren’t aware, service clubs are voluntary nonprofit organizations structured by regular meetings and charitable works. Sometimes the charitable giving is hands-on and sometimes it is fundraising.

You can be active in your community primarily for your own self-interest, and then there is being active with a more altruistic intention. One of the best ways to create a win-win opportunity and accomplish both, in my opinion, is by joining a service club or organization.

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While the volunteer work is extremely satisfying, as we will discuss later, the networking is also outstanding. Networking is not the primary reason you should join a service club, but it is a natural extension of it. Typically, these clubs are made up of community leaders and business owners. Joining is a great way to get to know these well-connected people. Who knows, you might even make legitimate friendships along the way. As with many things in life, you really get out of these clubs what you put into them.

Finding your club

Unless you have a cause that is incredibly close to your heart, I suggest visiting a few clubs in your area to find one that is the right fit. Every chapter, even within the same club, is going to have a slightly different feel. Some are more social than others, some more fundraising-driven. Some are very strict on attendance, while others have a more relaxed approach. Here are some of the most common options:

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  • Kiwanis International — focused primarily on the chapter’s local community from the perspective of improving children’s lives.
  • Rotary International — more of a global focus with an emphasis on developing countries, although they are very active locally as well. They are famous for their fight to eradicate polio.
  • Associations of Lions Clubs — fighting blindness around the world.

When considering a club, it is good to find out how active the club is, what would be expected of you as a member, and the meeting time and place.

Often it is the practicality of the time and place that end up making your decision. For instance, lunch clubs can be tough for contractors, so a morning or evening club might be a better fit.

Your time is often more precious than money. So again, choose your club carefully in regard to this. Go into your commitment expecting service hours in addition to your meeting attendance.

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The cost of service

The dues for these clubs can vary wildly depending on the size of the club and where they meet. Often your meal will be included in your dues if you meet around a mealtime. So if your club meets at a country club versus a country buffet, this will affect your dues. Typically, dues are paid quarterly. Joining a service club should be a commitment, so don’t enter into this lightly, and be sure to find a club that fits your budget.

Note that you may occasionally be asked to sponsor events as well. The dues won’t be the last money you donate to your club.

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The reward

In addition to creating lasting relationships with some of the predominate leaders in your area, a service club can be extremely rewarding in other ways. You’ll get a better insight into what is happening in your community and the needs that aren’t being filled.

Meetings are usually organized around a speaker from the area. These topics may be political, nonprofit, timely, or just plain entertaining. Either way, they are going to keep you informed. This could lead to new opportunities and new connections you never expected to make. Business growth comes from unexpected places at times, and getting out of your bubble is the best way to find them.

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When I say “get out of your bubble,” I mean stop obsessing over your business and see what’s out in the world. Take a step back and spend time volunteering for your community. You’ll feel a little weight lift in your chest and you’ll come back to work feeling refreshed. Your company will not crumble if you are gone for two hours, I promise.

A hidden opportunity

Whether or not you are ready to join a club, don’t miss the excellent opportunity that they provide. Service clubs typically have a speaker at each and every meeting. Depending on how often they meet, that’s a lot of slots to fill. Getting on the roster is surprisingly easy. And you don’t have to be in a club to speak at it.

Don’t be afraid to use the local service clubs as a speaking circuit for the topics that are important to you and your business. This is a great way of becoming a voice of authority and gaining brand exposure, while delivering an important message. For instance, I speak to many of our service clubs about our apprenticeship program. I impress upon them the excellent opportunities in the trades for young people, the impending shortage of master plumbers, and the incredible opportunity the apprenticeship model represents for their own businesses.

It doesn’t have to be about apprenticeships though. If your company is keen on green plumbing initiatives and water-saving devices, you can talk about that. As long as you are approaching the topic from an informational and educational standpoint — not promoting your business — you can likely get a talk. You might also want to have more than one option you can speak about.

You can take advantage of speaking opportunities even if you have no intention of joining these clubs, although this is also a great way to meet the different clubs in your area. To arrange these speaking engagements, you can just contact the club and ask who is in charge of their speaker booking. They will probably just pass your information along.

About the author: Anja Smith is managing partner for All Clear Plumbing in Greenville, South Carolina. She can be reached at anja@acpupstate.com.


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