Volunteering is a noble way to spend your time; it can also provide opportunities to advance your career. If you work in finance, here are six charitable activities that could help you get something extra out of your donated hours.
Income Tax Assistance Programs
Peter Donohoe, a wealth management specialist for PRW Wealth Management in Quincy, Mass., has been volunteering with Quincy Community Action Programs (QCAP) for seven years in its Income Tax Assistance Program. QCAP is a local nonprofit that helps low-income people become self-sufficient. Its tax-assistance program uses IRS-certified volunteers to help low-income taxpayers with tax counseling and with federal and state tax-return preparation.
Donohoe's experience shows how volunteering doesn't have to be about enhancing your profile. Instead, it can offer a training opportunity that will help you in your career. "Before volunteering, the only tax returns I had ever completed were my own," he says. "While I had reviewed client tax returns, I had never completed their tax returns."
At QCAP, Donohoe works on approximately 50 tax returns per year. He says volunteering has given him a knowledge of tax issues that has helped him to better serve his clients.
Local Nonprofits
Tim Shanahan, president and chief investment strategist of financial advisory firm Compass Capital in Braintree, Mass., says volunteering to serve on a local nonprofit board makes the most sense. "You can bring a skill set to help them that they most likely do not have, and it gives you a chance to build relationships and showcase your talents," he says. Building your credibility and making new contacts through this opportunity can lead to professional referrals.
"In my community I've served on the boards and committees of my children's elementary and high schools and churches and a local social club as well as the yacht club that I belong to," Shanahan says. In the school settings, he typically volunteers with the finance committee to help set the budget and tuition. "It's a visible position and shows leadership in our community," he says. "I've gotten a higher profile within the community, which helps when people are looking for a trusted financial advisor." In addition, some of his volunteer positions give him the chance to advertise in bulletins or event programs. "My service motivation is first to help, but the professional exposure is a byproduct," says Shanahan.
Other opportunities to help charitable organizations include volunteering with gifting programs, estate planning and direct funding. "Volunteering helps the financial planner's business because of the annuities, life insurance and money management that is needed," says northern Virginia-based financial advisor Larry Rosenthal, who sits on the board of Youth for Tomorrow. "Most importantly, the types of charities should be ones that the planner is passionate about," he says.
University Venture Fund
"The best volunteer opportunities for financial professionals are programs like University Venture Fund, the country's largest student-run venture capital firm," says Chris Kilbourn, owner, CEO and CFO of TOFU Marketing, a full-service Internet-marketing company based in Salt Lake City. He says volunteering with UVF was the best decision he made as a finance major in college; the program's mentors have connections with venture capital firms, private equity firms and the like, which can help students get jobs.
UVF gives college students opportunities to work with professionals on live deals at top-tier investment firms like Accel Partners, Benchmark Capital and many others. It also offers experiences that help students learn how to identify successful companies. During his time with UVF, Kilbourn worked on lengthy investment memos in collaboration with a team, performed market analysis for a top-tier venture fun and conducted research on numerous markets and industries.

A Local Community College or University
A good place for a financial planner to volunteer is at a local community college or university, says Jacob Gold, an independent financial advisor with ING Financial Partners. He is a finance advisory board member for the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, his alma mater. "Financial literacy is extremely low, and the need for it is extraordinarily high," he says. Call different educational departments to see if they need assistance.
Another opportunity at colleges and universities is volunteering to tutor students in math, economics, finance and accounting. "Over time, financial planners may be surprised by how much the educational department begins to ask for their opinions and insights," Gold says. Opportunities can emerge from this relationship as the school begins to trust you, he says.
Forums and Associations
Volunteering to host or speak at a forum gives financial professionals a chance to showcase their knowledge to a broad audience. For example, a financial advisor could speak about investment diversification at a public financial education forum. This exposure creates opportunities to attract new clients.
Amy Zhang, managing member of hedge-fund accounting firm Affinity Fund Services in San Francisco, serves as the board director of CalCPA's San Francisco Chapter and board liaison to its scholarship committee. She also co-founded the Financial Entrepreneurs Forum, which hosts monthly events. 
Zhang says she chose CalCPA, a professional association of certified public accountants, because it gives her access to leaders in the accounting profession, keeps her informed of critical industry issues and trends, and increases her credibility as a sole practitioner. She also enjoys working with CalCPA's scholarship committee. "All industries need highly qualified accountants, and one way to meet such demand is to help our best accounting students receive the education they deserve," Zhang says.
She co-founded the Financial Entrepreneurs Forum when she realized that as a financial entrepreneur, she wasn't alone in missing aspects of the corporate life like having coworkers to brainstorm with. "We hold roundtable sessions to talk about operational, legal, marketing, all the issues that we financial entrepreneurs share," Zhang says. "It's a place for me to understand the investment firms' business practices better and meet new people with similar mindsets."
Anywhere You're Passionate About
Matthew L. Forester, chief investment officer of Creative Financial Group in Newtown Square, Pa., offers a different perspective. He says financial professionals should not do volunteer work to advance their careers. "Don't do it to meet new prospects or clients. Don't volunteer for the prestige of belonging to a high-status organization. Volunteer to help an organization or an activity that you care about," he says. "You'll need passion for the organization and its goals to put the hours in on a volunteer basis."
Forester recommends seeking opportunities with smaller non-profits where volunteers can make a bigger impact. Board and staff roles often overlap in these organizations, he says, and the staff are overwhelmed with responsibilities. "The people you meet will likely be more grateful for your volunteer service, but don't volunteer for the gratitude you'll receive. By definition, a volunteer gives without expecting something in return," Forester says.
The Bottom Line
Financial professionals should choose volunteer opportunities that are in line with their personal and professional interests and beliefs, says Zhang. "It is a time commitment, and one can only receive if one gives," she says. 

Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    Pros And Cons Of Volunteering In Your Career Field

    Here are some positives and negatives of volunteering in the same area you work in.
  2. Personal Finance

    People Who Benefit The Most From Volunteering

    From parents to students to retirees, volunteering can be of great benefit to a lot of people. Here are people who volunteering benefits the most.
  3. Personal Finance

    The Best Ways To Volunteer

    The most beneficial type of volunteer activity depends on your goals for volunteering.
  4. Personal Finance

    The Pros And Cons Of Volunteerism In America

    Here is a rundown of some of the positives and negatives of volunteering in the U.S.
  5. Budgeting

    Are The Volunteer Corps Right For You?

    The Peace Corps and AmeriCorps offer low pay, but they offer higher benefits down the road.
  6. Professionals

    Broker Or Trader: Which Career Is Right For You?

    Both brokers and traders buy and sell securities, but there are some subtle differences between the two careers.
  7. Products and Investments

    How to Create a New Financial Product in 10 Steps

    The 10 steps outlined here are essential to the creation of a new financial product.
  8. Professionals

    A Day In The Life Of A Public Accountant

    Here's an inside look at the workdays of two experienced CPAs, to give you an idea of what it might be like to pursue a career as a public accountant.
  9. Professionals

    A Day in the Life of a Public Accountant

    There’s no typical day in the life of a public accountant, but one accountant’s experience may shed some light on what the career entails.
  10. Professionals

    Financial Career Options For Professionals

    A career in finance can take a business professional down many different paths.
  1. Does a financial advisor need an MBA?

    Obtaining a license as a financial adviser does not require an Master's of Business Administration (MBA) degree. The Certified ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Do financial advisors work only in banks?

    While the majority of financial advisors work for financial institutions such as banks, a large proportion of them are self-employed ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How can an investment banker switch to a career in corporate finance?

    It's pretty easy for an investment banker to switch to a career in corporate finance. The career skills are easily transferable, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What are the benefits of financial sampling?

    Financial sampling allows auditors to approximate the rate of error within financial statements. For accounting purposes, ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the differences between a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Certified ...

    The differences between a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) are many, but comes down ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How do I get started with a career in asset management?

    The asset management industry has a variety of different career paths. Depending on what asset management area you would ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  2. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  3. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  4. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  5. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  6. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
Trading Center