In my work, I meet volunteers all the time. I like to ask them what organizations they volunteer for and why. I’m curious to learn the reasons a person is inspired to give back. I’d like to share with you some of the most compelling reasons I’ve heard over the years as to why people volunteer. Perhaps you already volunteer regularly and can relate or, better yet, maybe you’ll become inspired to jump on the volunteer bandwagon! I promise it’ll be one of the best “rides” of your life!
1. There is a personal tie to the cause. A particular cause calls to you because you, or someone close to you, have personally experienced the hardship the cause is aiming to minimize or eradicate. Perhaps your mom survived breast cancer or you grew up in a household without enough to eat. Whatever the cause, it touches your heart and empathy drives you to give back and make a difference in the lives of those going through the same situation now.
2. Volunteering is a great way to build a resume. Perhaps you are out of work and looking for something to bide your time and keep your resume fresh. Or maybe you have a job but your current position does not allow for the training you seek. Many volunteers are able to learn a new language or to develop managerial skills in volunteer positions they commit to.
3. It’s a good way to bridge the gap between yourself and others who may perceive you as “different”. Volunteering with these groups allows the chance to expand your horizons and celebrate other cultures and peoples. Teaching abroad or working with refugees are examples of volunteer opportunities that allow for people from different backgrounds to come together as one.
4. Volunteering sets a good example for others. Lots of folks “talk the talk”. But very few actually make the time and effort to “walk the walk”. By volunteering, you inspire others to get involved to make a positive change in the community. It also sets a good example for children. Serving food at a local soup kitchen, leading a corporate team to raise funds for a charity run, or working with at-risk adolescents in an after-school program are great examples on how to spark a passion for volunteering in others.
5. Meeting like-minded, motivated, positive people is super easy. The way someone chooses to spend their spare time is a true reflection of their values and priorities. Connecting over shared passions for a cause while helping others is a great way to meet new friends. By volunteering, your “circle of friends” can get a whole lot bigger in just a short amount of time.
6. Volunteering can offer unique and exciting opportunities. Depending on the project, you may get “behind-the-scenes” views of large organizations, such as political campaigns, at work. There might even be opportunities to meet famous and influential people who are spokespeople or involved in a particular cause. Or, volunteering as an usher at a theater house, for example, might enable you to see many amazing productions for free. These are pretty cool perks for a couple hours of your time.
7. “Doing good” is important. Every day we are bombarded with disheartening news stories. Volunteering presents a proactive way of doing something to make the world a better place. Even the smallest gestures make a difference. And if we all band together, those small gestures can add up to a big change! For example, when you donate clothes and toys to the Salvation Army, you are helping our world by recycling, creating jobs in thrift stores and providing a way for others to purchase needed items at an affordable price.
8. Volunteering creates empowerment. Maybe someone offered you a helping hand when you were down and out. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to pay that favor forward. Often times, a word of encouragement and a little assistance to those in need can help them get back on their feet. And when they do, they’ll most likely do the same for others. And the cycle continues.
9. Volunteering has never been easier. There is a nonprofit organization for just about every interest or cause out there. Finding the right organization to volunteer for is just a Google search away. Organizations recognize that do-gooders have varied skills and talents to bring to the table. These organizations have begun taking a real interest in putting the talents and expertise of volunteers to use to produce the greatest good for their clients. They have also become more flexible in volunteer scheduling, offering after work and weekend opportunities to help accommodate busy schedules.
10. Volunteering can help you get or stay healthy. It’s true! Charity runs and walk-a-thons are excellent ways to stay motivated in your personal goals of weight loss or simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle. When you know you have others relying on the funds you’re raising, it’s a lot easier to tie up those laces and get moving.
11. Volunteering gives greater perspective and self-awareness. Depending on the cause, it is possible you will come face to face with some pretty heart-wrenching situations. As a volunteer, you will be expected to keep a calm and positive demeanor. Dealing with these situations can make you question your perspective on the world and the choices you make in your personal life. Though this can a bit overwhelming at first, developing a keener sense of self-awareness is an amazing transformation many volunteers experience.
12. Volunteering is good for you. Studies show that volunteering releases tension. By helping others in need, you take the focus off of your own problems, putting into perspective how precious having a healthy, fulfilled life really is. Many volunteers realize that, while not perfect, their life is a blessing to be celebrated every day. In my opinion, this is priceless.
So what about you? Do you volunteer? Who for and why? Do any of these reasons resonate with you? Did I miss anything? Feel free to share your story here or on our Facebook page.