Boost Your Career, Volunteer

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Actors often ask me the best way to get their name out there and my first answer is always: work. A stage, TV, or film project gives you something to talk about with press as well as plenty of fodder for social media. Now, I realize this is a bit of a catch-22: “To promote myself, I need to have a project to talk about. But to get a project to talk about, I need to promote myself.” And you’re no wrong, but all that means is that you need to think outside the box (or beyond the set).

An easy way to do so? Volunteer. You won’t earn cash but you’ll reap big personal dividends. And while giving back to a worthy organization won’t give you a resume credit, you’ll get plenty of valuable professional credit. Here are seven reasons to support a charity with your time:

1. It’s free.
The only cost is time, enthusiasm, commitment, and energy!

2. It’s content.
Volunteering is a great conversation starter at industry mixers, with the press, and on social media.

3. It’s co-branding.
When you volunteer, you automatically pair with a charity’s mission, credibility, and marketing. Worst case: You post a selfie, sleeves rolled up, hard at work for the charity. You tag the charity and their social team likes or reposts it. Better case: You provide content to the charity for marketing and they use it in an email blast to thousands of their supporters. Then you repost it on your own social media. That’s getting your name out there!

4. It’s networking.
Many charities have industry boards and other like-minded and dedicated volunteers. The cause itself puts you on a level playing field and gives you something to talk about other than the usual industry banter.

5. It’s a great way to find fans.
Everyone who cares about your cause is a potential fan.

6. It’s a high.
Volunteering gets you out of your head, keeps you on a schedule and feeling productive. Researchers at Florida State University in Tallahassee recently found that volunteering for just two hours a week eases the feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Nothing cures the blues like helping others!

7. It’s a win-win.
The reason this is the perfect PR hack is because everybody benefits. Keep that in mind and everyone will!

READ: 6 Inspiring Volunteer Opportunities for Actors

Now that you’re fired up to volunteer, time for a cool head. There are a few things you need to consider before enlisting:

Don’t pick sides.
Stick to causes that most everyone can get behind. Unless you’re running for office or joining the priesthood, there’s no reason to get political or find religion.

Choose a charity that feels personal to you.
This is very important! Not only will it keep you motivated, people (including media) love to see a real connection to an issue.

Do vet the organization thoroughly.
For example, if a charity has received a lot of negative press, this could reflect on you.

Be Goldilocks.
In other words, find the right fit. If you volunteer at a huge charity already crowded with A-list celebrities, you’ll get lost. On the other hand, if it’s too small, the benefits of co-branding are diminished. Instead, look for an organization that has solid (and growing) support, but could still use your help.

Show up.
You should do the work—build a cat shelter, serve meals, run the 5K. You must be willing to commit real time, energy, and enthusiasm. The more you put in, the more you’ll benefit both personally and professionally.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Steve Rohr
Steve Rohr is a nationally recognized communication expert, author, publicist, and educator. As a personal publicist, he represented actors and recording artists for over a dozen years and is currently the show publicist for the Oscars®. Additionally, Rohr has taught public relations and communication on several Southern California campuses.
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