The Benefits of Volunteering
Whether you are a busy career person, a stay at home parent, retired or unemployed, there are benefits to volunteering. These benefits accrue to both the giver and the recipient of the volunteered hours. When we give our time and talents to a non-profit or faith-based organization, we help to strengthen our community, solve problems, improve the lives of others and improve our own general well-being.
When a volunteer's passions and skill sets are matched to the organization and volunteer opportunity, the volunteer experience can be very rewarding in numerous ways.
- There is a special emotional benefit that comes from working with others to better a community or help solve a problem. Many volunteers report an increase in life satisfaction and overall well-being that comes from volunteering. It gives you an opportunity to look at the world through different eyes and possibly gain a deeper appreciation for what you have. Some studies have shown that the health benefits are beyond emotional. Volunteers are reported to have greater physical and mental functionality, lower rates of depression and lower mortality rates.
- It can help people feel less isolated and to make new friends. As our society becomes more transient and more isolating, it may be difficult to make new friends. This is especially true when you move to a new community. Volunteering not only gets you out and about in the community, it allows you to make new friends in an unpressured setting. Especially for the introverted, it is a great way to get out, do some good, make friends and have some fun.
- It gives you the opportunity to gain new skills or, to hone the ones you have. Most non-profits and faith based organizations have a greater need for help than they have volunteers to provide that help. They are usually happy to utilize skills that are a little "rusty" or to let people "learn on the job." For people who have been out of the job market this may provide a great opportunity to show what you can do. For young people it can instill a maturity and confidence that will stay with them throughout their lives.
– It may be a way to test the waters for a career change. Volunteering may also provide an opportunity to network in order to help find a paying job in your profession. The current economic climate has created situations where people are out of work for lengthy periods and have had to re-locate or retrain to find work. Volunteering not only benefits the organization that desperately needs your assistance, it gives you the opportunity to work in a new career. If you want to work in healthcare for instance, volunteering in a hospital or hospice will give you a feel for whether that is a good choice for you. If you are already trained in a healthcare career, volunteering may help you develop new skills or even network to find a paying job.
– Regardless of whether the economy is humming along or sputtering with high unemployment, there are persons who are in need and projects that are not a priority for government resources. Non-profit and faith-based organizations fill a gap that is vital to the health and vitality of the community. There are thousands of small theatres, museums, food banks, community clean-ups, mentoring programs, animal shelters, libraries, youth organizations etc. that could not function without volunteers. As a volunteer you get the benefit of knowing that you are making a difference while enabling these much needed services to exist.
– An often overlooked perk that goes with volunteering is access to discounts and free events. Many small theaters, museums etc will give free or discounted tickets to their volunteers. Volunteering at charity events gives you access to the event. Some thrift stores give discounts to their volunteers. While it is not a huge benefit, it is something that says thank you for all of your hard work. We appreciate your efforts. And we all love to be appreciated.