With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering are enormous to you, your family, and your community. The right volunteer experience match can help you find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. Volunteering can also help protect your mental and physical health.
Benefits of volunteering #1: Volunteering connects you to others
One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together.
- Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place.
- Volunteering is a two-way street, and it can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help.
Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills.
Volunteering helps you make new friends and contacts
- One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together.
- Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area.
- Volunteering also strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with
common interests, neighborhood resources, as well as fun and fulfilling activities.
Volunteering increases your social and relationship skills
- Some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people.
- Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.
Benefits of volunteering #2: Volunteering is good for your mind and body
Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health.
Volunteering increases self-confidence.
- Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. You are doing something good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment.
- Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity.
- The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
Volunteering combats depression.
- Reducing the risk of depression is another important benefit of volunteering. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation.
- Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you are going through challenging times.
Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy.
Volunteering is good for your health at any age.
- Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants.
- Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.
Benefits of volunteering #3: Volunteering can advance your career
If you are thinking of a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Even if you are not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and organization. You might feel more comfortable at work once you have gained these skills in a volunteer position first.
Volunteering can provide career experience
Volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. For example, if you are interested in nursing, you could volunteer at the hospital or a long term care facility. Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organizations or internships that could be of benefit to your career.
Volunteering can teach you valuable job skills
Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean that skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. For example, you could become an experienced crisis counselor while volunteering for a women’s shelter or a knowledgeable art historian while donating your time as a museum volunteer.
Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community.
Benefits of volunteering #4: Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life
Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day to day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.
Consider your goals and interests
You will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteer experience if you first take some time to identify your goals and interests. Start by thinking about why you want to volunteer. Think about what you enjoy doing. Volunteer opportunities that both match your goals and your interests are more likely to be fun and fulfilling for you.
Get the most out of Volunteering
You are donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering.
- Ask questions. You want to make sure the experience is right for your skills, your goals, and the time you want to spend. Example: is there training involved, who will I be working with, what do you do if you have questions while you are volunteering.
- Make sure you know what is expected. Make sure you are comfortable with the organization, know what is expected, and understand the time commitment.
- Don’t be afraid to make a change. Speak up if your experience isn’t what you expected. Don’t force yourself into a bad fit.
- Enjoy yourself. Most importantly, make sure you are having fun! The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and the organization.
Volunteering as a Family
While, it might be a challenge to coordinate everyone’s schedules, volunteering as a family has many worthwhile benefits. Children watch everything you do. By giving back to the community, you show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help others and enact change. It is also a valuable way for you to get to know organizations in the community and find resources and activities for your children and family.
I have limited mobility – can I still volunteer?
Whether due to a lack of transportation, time constraints, a disability or other reasons, many people prefer to volunteer via phone or computer. There are many projects where you can help.
When it comes to volunteering, passion and positivity are the only requirements.
While learning new skills can be beneficial to many, it’s not a requirement for a fulfilling volunteer experience. Keep in mind that the most valuable skills you can bring to any volunteer effort are compassion, an open mind, a willingness to do whatever is needed, and a positive attitude.
Tips to get you started to Volunteer
First, ask yourself if there is something specific you want to do.
For example, do I want…
- …to make it better around where I live
- …to meet people new people
- …to try something new
- …to do something with my spare time
- …to see a different way of life and new places
- …to preview a type of work I might want to do as a job
- …to do more with my interests and hobbies
- …to do something I am good at
- …to keep busy in retirement
- …to have fun
The best way to volunteer is to match your personality and interests. Having the answers to these questions will help you narrow down your search.