Balancing Generosity

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Volunteering Your Services

By Allissa Haines
[Blueprint for Success]

Massage therapists get asked to work at all sorts of events, especially charitable fundraisers. Road races, golf tournaments, PTO nights, and health fairs can all be great. These types of events get our names and faces out into the community where we can network and build career-sustaining relationships. Often, we are asked to work those events for free.
Volunteering our time and massage skills is a dicey topic. Some business owners say we should never work for free. Others say we should be generous with our time and services. I think there are no definitive answers here, just some helpful questions we can ask ourselves to parse out the best solution for our own businesses.

1. Do You Need New Clients?

If your schedule is full and you get plenty of regular referrals from your current client base, you probably don’t need any more face time in the community. But if you are new or looking for more clients in a particular niche, getting out and meeting people can be great fun and ultimately lucrative.

2. How Much Will It Cost You in Lost Wages?

Performing a free gig on your busiest office day will cost you lost clients. Is the event worth it financially? Consider how many new clients you would have to gain to make it worth your time and effort, and let the math help you decide.

3. Will Your Ideal Clients Be There?

If the event will be chock-full of the exact type of client you seek, then it makes sense to do this gig. But if you specialize in pregnancy massage and the free event is at a senior center, it may not be a good fit. Likewise, if you are concentrating on building a geriatric massage practice and the event is at a preschool open house, give a polite, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I don’t think I’m a good fit for this event,” and move along.

4. Will You Have Access to Attendee Contact Information?

At some events, vendors are given the attendee list, including email addresses, or, at the very least, permission to have an email sign-up sheet on-site. If that’s the case, be sure you are able and willing to send a welcome email to new subscribers within 48 hours of the event. Welcome that person to your business, write a little blurb about how much fun the event was (maybe include a photo from that day), and give a link to your website.

5. Will the Job Strengthen an Existing Relationship?

Some jobs are worth doing just for the goodwill. Years back, I had a client who came in weekly for a 90-minute massage. When he asked if I could donate some time to the charity golf tournament he ran, my answer was a hearty yes. He had given me a great deal of business (and referrals) and clearly valued my work. Even better, the event was full of clients just like him. (My ideal clients. See where this is going?)
What if he wanted to thank the employees who work under him in a corporate setting, but the budget was a little smaller than I would have liked? I would most definitely cut my rates for a one-time event. It’s just smart business sense to be good to the people who are good to you. Also, it makes me feel good. Win-win.

6. What Are Your Deal Breakers?

For me, I won’t work a charity event if it conflicts with my regular office hours and I already have people scheduled. I’m also a little persnickety about events that are haphazardly run. So, if I get a request to work an event but the request is unclear or doesn’t include the details I would need to make the decision, I will probably refuse.
I also tend to not donate time to organizations that are not aligned with my personal values. For example, I wouldn’t work a fundraiser if the organization is not welcoming to the LGTBQIA community or has a history of poor treatment of their employees or volunteers.
On the flip side, I will ignore most of my deal breakers, lose potential income, and go well out of my way to donate time to an event specific to my local autistic community. Because that is where my heart lies. And we get to make these decisions for ourselves. That’s part of the fun of owning a business, right?

7. Is This Still Working for Me?

When you need to stop working a regular or annual volunteer event, give as much advance notice as possible. Be proactive and reach out to the organizers before they contact you about the next event. Ideally, you can refer them to another practitioner who would be a good fit for the gig. You won’t lose standing or respect in your community if you handle these situations with integrity and consideration for those organizing the event.
It is possible to balance our goals to get in front of new faces, our desire to be generous in our communities, and the need to bring home the bacon. Thoughtfully answering these questions and tuning in to how you feel about any potential volunteer work will get you to that balance!

Allissa Haines runs a massage practice and collaborative wellness center in Massachusetts. She partners with Michael Reynolds to create business and marketing resources for massage therapists like you at