If you’re like most people, you want to make the world a better place, give back, and help others as much as possible. But on the other hand, if you work for yourself, all your extra time probably goes towards growing your business.

When I started my business 18 years ago, I had very little time for extracurricular activities. That is, until I adopted my Yellow Labrador, Taylor. Like most dogs, she had a lot of energy and enjoyed getting out of the house. That’s when I decided to get her certified as a therapy dog and we began to do some volunteer work at the local library.

Over time, my volunteer work paid off, both personally and professionally. Here are a few ways giving back can help grow your business.

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1. Volunteering provides opportunities to network.

Through volunteering, you meet individuals from the various organizations for which you volunteer and other people who have the same giving attitude as you do. When you make volunteering part of your success strategy, you also get to know some of the movers and shakers in the business community you may otherwise have difficulty meeting.

If you’re not sure where to start, contact your local United Way. This non-profit organization offers a plethora of volunteer activities and can quickly get you plugged in. Also, you may also want to get involved with your alumni association and local Chamber of Commerce.

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2. Volunteering helps you build your portfolio.

Consider volunteering your time by providing a skill that is also your livelihood. Your work may be seen by hundreds, or thousands of people and build your portfolio at the same time.

For example, I provide one or two pro bono etiquette sessions a year for underprivileged children. I get the satisfaction of knowing that I’m helping others, plus I may get some publicity in the newspaper in return.

Another idea is to choose a non-profit that complements an industry in which you’ve always wanted to work. For example, if you’ve always wanted to do work in the sports industry, try volunteering some hours to a non-profit group like the Special Olympics that provides training and competitions for adults and children with intellectual disabilities.

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3. Volunteering garners good publicity.

When you align your career objectives with a cause you love, there’s nothing wrong with telling others about it. Create posts on your website and social media outlets, profile your favorite volunteer organization in a blog post or newsletter article, upload photographs and videos, and include links so others can learn more about it.

For example, when my dog and I visited our local library, I took photos as the children read stories to her. I then posted them on my Facebook page, on my blog, and in my monthly newsletter for all to see.

4. Volunteering boosts your reputation.

Although it's best not to do it for the accolades, your reputation for getting involved with a worthy cause will most likely spread throughout the community, enhancing your business image. People are more likely to do business with someone they know and respect, and with someone who does good deeds for others.

5. Volunteering takes your mind off work.

Volunteering helps you forget about your normal business routine, especially when you do something for those less fortunate. Serve food at a soup kitchen, paint or clean someone’s yard, or volunteer at a local animal shelter. It doesn’t matter what you do; just do something. Giving back introduces you to new friends, builds your network, and may even help you develop skills that will advance your career. Most of all, volunteering encourages you to focus on others and less on yourself.

The simple act of giving a few hours a month can lead to a much greater reward in the long run. Make it a priority to to grow in generosity. You will find that the more you support your community, the more you will be supported in return.