Underestimating the capability that business can have, in terms of facilitating tangible good, is a mistake. There is no better vehicle in the world that can help bring about change as quickly as businesses can. Why is this true? Simple answer: money. Capital is something that is necessary in virtually every project and business are the ones that have plenty of it. For this reason, joining firms trying to make a difference as a business volunteer is a great way to make a quick but lasting impact.
There are plenty of options for you to contribute as a business volunteer. Many firms have departments that focus of charitable giving while other businesses are set up as a “for cause” company. Alternatively, there are an increasing number of microfinance firms that are doing a tremendous amount of good in third world countries.
Microfinance: Microfinance is a concept that has caught fire in recent decades. Essentially, microfinance facilitates micro-loans to small businesses in third world countries. These loans usually have very high interest rates but a large percentage of the loans are still paid back regardless. This promotes economic activity in areas that are would otherwise be idle due to a lack of capital. In addition, it gives small businesses the initial boost they need to get started. Volunteering at a microfinance firm could be a great option for someone who wants to use the power of capital to make a significant impact.
“For cause” companies: Another recent trend in the business world has been the increasing number of firms identifying themselves as a “for cause” company. These companies sell a product with the idea that a part of the profits go directly to helping some sort of cause. In addition, there are other firms that will donate their product to areas of need with every purchase of their product. Becoming a business volunteer or working as an unpaid intern could be a great way to make a difference in the world.
Charities: Many charities rely on large donations from corporations to do their work. Many of these corporations will have a team that is in charge of making charitable donations. As a business volunteer at a charity, you could have the opportunity to work these businesses to get donations/sponsorships for your cause. The best part about this option is the fact your success is easily measured!
Business Development: For those who want to get up and close to the action, there are many opportunities to help develop local businesses/economies. These volunteers analyze business plans, generate ideas for economic development and help small business owners with basic accounting. And the best part of this kind of business volunteer work is that you’ll be able to see the impact you’ve made first hand!
You’ll find volunteering opportunities in the business realm practically in every part of the world. For example, you could either be a business volunteer in the US or Europe where many company/charities are headquartered or you could work on the ground in Asia or Africa. The possibilities are endless!
For those who do decide to volunteer in the US/Europe, know that the impact of your work will have a wide range of impact. For example, if you volunteer at a microfinance firm, chances are that the majority of your loans will be made to Third World countries. In India alone there has been 6.5 billion dollars have been loaned out, helping many small business owners get their start.
For many of the charities and for cause companies, it will depend on their area of focus. For example, the company Toms will donate shoes to over 50 different countries. For that reason, it is possible for you to find a company/charity that makes an impact in an area that interests you. So go out there and make an impact!
Planning Your Trip
- KIVA is arguably the best-known microfinance firm in the world today. They help small business owners with loans as small as 25 dollars. Browse through the internships on their website if you want to work with them. While these internships are highly competitive, it will be well worth it!
- CharityJob is a great source to look for volunteer opportunities within charities. The link will take you a search for finance jobs/volunteer opportunities within charities. These jobs will allow you to either work with the finances of the charity or actually raise funds for the charity.
- UBELONG is a great provider that provides programs that focus on the economic development of local communities all over the world.
Contributed by Raj Patel
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