“Play it forward” is the concept of doing random acts of kindness to other as a gratitude for what other have done for you. Acts of kindness from politicians donating their salaries to charities[i] to Robert F. Smith paying off the student debt for the entire graduating class of Morehouse College in May 2019[ii] to simply calling out polite behavior at a retail shop

(Image: Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash)

As EACD members, we can play it forward by sharing our skills and expertise as volunteers to charities and non-profit organisations (NGOs). There are many ways to contribute and most NGOs need human capital for development and fundraising programmes. There are also many NGOs who can benefit from our professional expertise as marketing communication professionals.

After being nominated to the board of the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP), I was able to introduce marketing communications topics that are now shaping the future of our NGO as well positively contributing to the success of mission to provide sustainability certification to the printing industry. Volunteering and serving is a positive experience to put your knowledge forward for the greater good.

There are a myriad of organisations and ways we can volunteer:

  • EACD: There are opportunities we have as members to get involved with EACD, from the mentoring program, region coordination to leadership roles are a good place to volunteer, to help drive the continued success of EACD in its development and support of members.
  • Local community: from church to festivals to sports, there are many places to apply professional experience. Creating key messages, branding, press releases, social media strategies and execution are a few of the ways to go beyond the participatory volunteer often associated with community programmes.
  • NGOs: the opportunity to positively impact NGOs can be simply sharing our expertise. NGOs focus on their mission and, for most, marketing communications is not a top priority. It a positive, rewarding experience to put your knowledge into play for the greater good.

There are also myriad benefits to volunteering:

  • Volunteering is a great way to expand your skill set from your career position. Leading the marketing efforts of the SGP, I am challenged with an entirely different set of challenges from my job at TE Connectivity. Our marketing committee must consider the promotion of our SGP-certified print facilities, the engagement of patrons and the adoption of our sustainability criteria by brands and governmental agencies as a procurement standard. At TE Connectivity, I work on marketing and communications programmes promoting new products, innovations, industry engagement and tradeshow participation all supporting our customers and industries. As a volunteer, I work with leaders in sustainability in the retail market and printing industry. Volunteering helps provide a different perspective and new ideas to create more compelling marketing programmes and content.
  • Volunteering is an opportunity to adapt and innovate. In November 218 at the SGP Annual Community Day in Cincinnati USA; for the networking activity, I adapted the EACD's European Communication Summit 2018 paper airplanes networking activity with positive feedback.
  • Make volunteering count by contributing to company`s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme. Check if there a registration of volunteer activities and time for your company's CSR programme. Your contribution as a volunteer can be enhanced if your company decides to further support the NGO or organisation you are working with. This can include products in kind, financial donations or volunteer programmes
  • Stay positive and healthy: there is research that volunteering provides health benefits.[iii] Use your volunteer activities to improve the world around you and yourself. As communication professionals and EACD members, we can provide an impact by volunteering to charities and non-profit organisations. It’s the ultimate “pay if forward”. 


[i] The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2017). President Donald J. Trump to Donate Salary to the Department of Education [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/articles/president-donald-j-trump-donate-salary-department-education/

[ii] Emerson, Bo. (2019, May 19). Morehouse commencement speaker to pay off Class of 2019’s student loans. Retrieved from Atlanta Journal-Constitution https://www.ajc.com/news/just-morehouse-commencement-speaker-pay-off-class-2019-student-loans/XvMHlS1SVyJiG3mRp1WOWL/

[iii] Jerf W. K. Yeung, Zhuoni Zhang, and Tae Yeun Kim Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms 2017 Jul 11. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4561-8

Jonathan Graham is senior manager of global communications for TE Connectivity’s Industrial business in Darmstadt, Germany and serves on the executive committee of the Sustainability Green Printing Partnership. In his role at TE, the global leader in sensor and connectivity solutions, he manages external and internal communications. For SGP, the leading sustainability certification for the printing industry, he leads the marketing activities and chairs the SGP Foundation. Jonathan has a master’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi in the United Sta