Volunteering is any activity or service that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that benefits someone else, the local community or the environment.
In addition, words and phrases like &quot;altruism&quot; or &quot;doing good&quot; come to mind.
Here are some examples of people &quot;doing good:&quot;
What sort of volunteering or “good” can we do?
There are different types of volunteering available, too many to list them all here. Some popular areas of voluntary work are:
With / in charity organizations.
With senior citizens, supporting older people.
Tutoring in schools.
Working on health projects and in hospitals
Food banks - The homeless.
What sort of volunteering or “good” can we do?
There are different types of volunteering available, too many to list them all here. Some of popular areas of voluntary work are:
Counselling - giving advice, information and doing support work or counselling
Befriending and mentor teens/young adults.
Working with children, young people and families.
Working in animal shelters.
On political campaigns and publicity.
Sports – coaching.
Here are some examples of people &quot;doing good:“
Scene #1: Elizabeth, 75 years old, spends four hours a day, three days a week, at a local food bank, helping to answer phones and file paperwork in the main office.
Scene #2: Jack, a 15 year old, goes skateboarding on a Saturday only to find that the neighborhood skatepark is a wreck. He could wait for grounds crews to clean it up but instead texts some friends who show up with their boards and some garbage bags.
Scene #3: Sarah is a 43 year old lawyer who spends her days (and most evenings) as a partner at a high profile corporate law firm. One of her family&apos;s favorite weekend activities is gardening so they occasionally spend a Saturday afternoon at a community garden that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to local schools.
Scene #4: Jorge is a 62 year old retired accountant. In addition to travel and other personal pursuits, he gives professional advice on the financial plans of a handful of nonprofit organizations. This is mostly done by email so he&apos;s found that he can get feedback to them whether he is at home or around the globe.
Scene #5: Sam is a 24 year old recent college graduate who is in the process of looking for paid work in the nonprofit sector, preferably with an organization that focuses on public health. While he spends much of his time researching and applying for jobs, he also serves on the board of a local free clinic.
All of them.
These stories are all very different:
•The people in them represent different genders, ages, stages of career
•The time commitments range from impromptu to regularly scheduled gigs
•Volunteer service includes office work independent projects, episodic, online, advisory, and board service
Among these diverse characteristics are common elements:
•an interest, desire, and/or willingness to do good
•contributing time, skills, and energy towards something that doesn&apos;t benefit only one&apos;s self, friends, or family
•not expecting any sort of reimbursement or payment in return for one&apos;s efforts. Choosing how, where, why, and when to get involved.
Other threads in these stories might seem atypical for volunteering.
•For example, all of these examples are great ways to get to know others. Whether for professional networking (in addition to making invaluable contacts, volunteering with a nonprofit is a great way to learn more about potentially working in the sector or a particular field… but we&apos;ll get to that later), to make new friends, or to just understand a little more about others&apos; ways of life.
•All of these examples of volunteering also demonstrate opportunities to gain new skills, practice existing skills in new ways, and learn more about complex issues like hunger, health care, and the environment.
•Lastly, while the end result of all of this philanthropic activity may have been something that serves a greater good, in all cases, the volunteer gains something valuable from the experience as well: being part of a community, enjoying a cleaner skate park, spending time outdoors with family, keeping skills sharp, networking, learning more about nonprofit governance, and so on.
Anyone can volunteer, regardless of age, experience, background, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability or refugee status.
It&apos;s a pretty common mistake to think of volunteering as just something nice that people can do.
Sure, it may make us feel great about helping, but what impact does volunteering really have?
Getting things done
Volunteers have an enormous impact on the health and well-being of communities worldwide. Lets think of all the ways that volunteers make a difference in our day-to-day life:
Volunteers deliver critical services—from serving as volunteer fire fighters or participating in search and rescue, to delivering meals to homebound seniors or homeless youth, to manning the phone lines at domestic violence and sexual assault centers.
Volunteers help to keep our neighborhoods, streets, parks, rivers, green spaces, and water clean and safe for everyone.
Volunteers tutor, teach, mentor, coach, and support young people with everything from math homework to dealing with personal crises to football and soccer tourneys.
Volunteers walk dogs, pet cats, clean cages, help with adoptions and feedings, and contribute veterinary expertise to organizations like animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centers.
Volunteers educate the public on health and safety; doctors and nurses donate time and medical knowledge to free clinics and natural/civil disaster areas worldwide.
Volunteers take tickets at film centers and performing arts events, lead tours at museums and historical societies, and ensure that arts and cultural festivals—from small-scale gatherings to massive multi-stage concerts—run smoothly.
Volunteers build houses and schools, dig wells, and repair infrastructure around the globe.
Now the good thing about volunteering is that we can measure its impact. Lets see.…
By the numbers
The impact of volunteers can be measured. We do this by taking a look at statistics like the hours served and the economic value of volunteer time.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, it is believed that 61.8 million individuals in the United States contributed 8 billion hours of volunteerism in 2008 alone.
The economic value of all this volunteering? $162 billion U.S. dollars.
To put that in context, this is roughly equivalent to the 2008 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Egypt. And that&apos;s just U.S. volunteers (to check out your country&apos;s stats, click here)!
Volunteers are critical partners of and participants in societies throughout the world. Whether actively giving their time through a formal or ad hoc organizations, or taking part in what is sometimes called &quot;informal volunteering&quot; where citizens voluntarily participate in community activities or provide personal care for family, friends, neighbors, or even strangers as part of accepted cultural norms of giving and reciprocity.
At this point you are probably asking why should you volunteer. Well lets see….
There are many benefits to volunteering in the community! Here are just a few:
Build Your Skills and Your Resume.
Develop a Career Network.
Enhance Your Education.
Create Positive Change in Your Community.
Be a Part of Your Community.
Learn about new things.
A chance to be recognized for public service.
I can almost hear someone silently asking, “what&apos;s in it for me?&quot; and I say to you tt really is okay to ask.
Volunteering can be far more than simply doing a good deed.
In fact, volunteering can be a great way to:
learn more about career options
garner new professional contacts
spend time outdoors/with animals/with kids, or even just shake up your routine.
Volunteers rarely speak of the benefits of volunteering to themselves — maybe it feels a bit too self-centered, or too far from the altruistic vision of the selfless volunteer.
Who says that doing good and enjoying yourself while meeting your own personal/professional goals can&apos;t happen at the same time?
Part of finding the right volunteer opportunity is:
Being honest about what you hope to learn and accomplish.
If in the process of meeting your personal and professional goals, you are also serving as an effective volunteer, helping to meet the goals of your particular volunteer project or role, and/or helping to move an organization&apos;s mission forward, it&apos;s a win-win situation.
Lets briefly look at some personal and professional benefits one can gain from volunteering.
Skill development - Volunteering helps you learn new skills, keep skills sharp, or use existing skills in new ways.
Career exploration - Regardless of your age or career level, volunteering will introduce you to new professional paths. Volunteering can be an excellent way to learn more about a particular role or sector (particularly if you are |coming from a for-profit job and hoping to switch to nonprofit or government), workplace or office culture, or cause. Also, never underestimate the power of networking; volunteering offers the opportunity to cross paths—as well as, in many cases, quickly bond—with people from across your community, including many with whom you may otherwise not have had contact.
Personal growth - Lifelong learning includes hands-on experiences as a volunteer which can teach you about issues ranging from adult literacy to public health to animal welfare. Need a break from your day-to-day life? Recharge by playing basketball with kids, or taking tickets at a film festival. Need to work off some stress? Consider some of the more labor-intensive roles like helping to remove invasive species or chopping out non-native trees and bushes. Lastly, don&apos;t forget that sometimes it just feels good to be valued; as a volunteer you can contribute unique skills, experiences, and perspectives.
Socialize - In addition to professional networking, volunteering can be a fun, meaningful way to make new friends. New to the community? Looking to branch out socially? Simply looking for something to do with new people? Volunteer and get to know others who care about the same issues that you do.
Have an impact - Last but most certainly not least, volunteering is one of the best ways we know of to make a difference in your community. Whatever your passion, however you get involved, volunteering offers a way to have a real and lasting impact on the world.
Lets talk more about this.
Benefits of volunteering #1
Volunteering connects you to others
One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community.
Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together.
Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place.
However, volunteering is a two-way street, and it can benefit you, your family and organization 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, and fun and fulfilling activities.
Volunteering increases your social and relationship skills
While 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.
Volunteering as an organization
While it might be a challenge to coordinate everyone’s schedules, volunteering as an organization has many worthwhile benefits.
Helps to build team work. By giving back to the community, you show firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help others and enact change.
It’s also a valuable way for you to get to know each other and find resources and activities to further benefit your organization.
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 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. And 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’re going through challenging times.
Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy.
Volunteering is good for your health at any age, but it’s especially beneficial in older adults.
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.
Some people may ask, 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 ways you can volunteer, such as:
Helping people schedule appointments – by phone.
Volunteering: The happiness effect
Many studies have demonstrated that helping others kindles happiness.
According to researchers at the London School of Economics who examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were, according to a study in Social Science and Medicine.
Compared with people who never volunteered, the odds of being “very happy” rose 7% among those who volunteer monthly and 12% for people who volunteer every two to four weeks. Among weekly volunteers, 16% felt very happy—a hike in happiness comparable to having an income of $75,000–$100,000 versus $20,000, say the researchers. Giving time to religious organizations had the greatest impact.
Benefits of volunteering #3
Volunteering can advance your career
If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you:
Get experience in your area of interest.
Meet people in the field.
Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to:
Practice important skills used in the workplace such as:
You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.
Lets look at some of these points.
Volunteering can provide career experience
Offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment.
A great way to gain experience in a new field.
In some fields, you can volunteer directly at an organization that does the kind of work you’re interested in.
For example, if you’re interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home.
Volunteer work might also expose you to professional organizations that could be of benefit to your career.
Volunteering can teach you valuable job skills
Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the 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.
Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community.
For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills.
Passion and positivity are the only requirements you need when it comes to volunteering.
While learning new skills can be beneficial to many, it’s not a requirement for a fulfilling volunteer experience.
Bear 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.
Benefits of volunteering #4:
Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to our lives.
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.
Many people volunteer in order to make time for hobbies outside of work as well.
For instance, if you have a desk job and long to spend time outdoors, you might consider volunteering to help plant a community garden, lead local hikes, or help at a children’s camp.
Consider your goals and interests
You will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteering experience if you:
First take some time to identify your goals and interests.
Start by thinking about why you want to volunteer.
Also think about what you would enjoy doing.
Volunteer opportunities that match both your goals and your interests are most likely to be fun and fulfilling.
Finally let us look at how we can volunteer.
The question is how can I or we volunteer?
There are diverse ways to volunteer such as:
Activities & Roles.
Let’s start with Activities and Roles.
A volunteer&apos;s activity/role can involve any one or more of the following:
Hands-on: activities where almost anyone can show up and, with minimal training, get started (taking tickets, cleaning up parks, planting trees)
Skilled: tasks that depend on a volunteer&apos;s particular skill set or experience (using graphic design skills to help an organization redesign brochures, building or maintaining a nonprofit&apos;s website, providing legal advice for an immigration support agency)
Direct service: volunteering on the front lines of the organization and likely having direct contact with the population served (delivering meals, packing food bank boxes)
Advisory: serving in a more behind-the-scenes role to help build an organization&apos;s capacity to reach their mission (providing feedback on strategic or fundraising plans, helping organizations learn more about using social networking sites and tools, serving on a committee or board whose role is largely oversight and governance)
Online: completing projects that you can do from anywhere in the world as long as you have email or internet access (translating materials, blogging, developing websites, advising on strategic plans)
To these, there are Action Steps that need to be taken.
Think about what kinds of activities you and your group really enjoy or have always wanted to try.
Do a skills assessment to see how you might be able to lend your personal and professional expertise to an organization, issue, or cause.
Think about where you want to get involved—behind the scenes, on the front lines, online.
Don&apos;t forget to consider what you would like to gain from this experience—and what kinds of activities are likely to help you reach your own personal or professional goals.
Impromptu: a volunteer project that is created and implemented on the fly.
One-time: projects or events that take place only on a certain date and/or are not ongoing opportunities to get involved (setting up stages at a community festival, handing out water to marathon runners)
Episodic: serving as an occasional volunteer on ongoing projects that are open to whomever can sign up on any given date/time (serving meals at a homeless shelter, cleaning up hiking trails)
Ongoing: committing to being a volunteer for a predetermined or otherwise agreed upon period of time (mentoring a young person, serving as a volunteer counselor on an emergency helpline, answering phones for scheduled periods of time each week, serving on a nonprofit organization&apos;s board of directors)
Travel: volunteering while on a vacation, break, or gap year—committing a week or two to a volunteer project in your neighborhood, an alternative spring or summer break in another part of your country, traveling to another country to serve anywhere from a few days to a few years—is an increasingly popular way to give back during time off.
Traditional: projects or volunteer roles that you take on under the guidance of and in support of the mission of a nonprofit or government organization (food banks, animal shelters, public health clinics)
DIY/independent/entrepreneurial: projects or roles that you create yourself, either because you can&apos;t find a volunteer opportunity that fits your interests and availability or because no organization appears to be addressing that particular cause or issue
Service learning: volunteering as part of or in connection with education or learning (completing volunteer hours for graduation, measuring toxin levels in local watersheds as part of a course on ecosystems)
Think about where you do your best work.
Is it as a member of a team or working independently?
Do you prefer to create your own project, develop new activities for reaching an established goal, or join a work in progress?
Having a better idea of how you like to work will help you identify the ideal structure for you.
Issue or Cause
Issues are matters of public concern that you are passionate about.
from animal rights to
education to health and well-being,
affordable housing to ending hunger,
arts and culture.
Start keeping track of which news stories you read.
What kinds of headlines grab your attention?
Which stories do you take time to read all the way through?
What blogs, news sites, or Twitter feeds do you follow?
Are there any particular social or environmental topics that you&apos;ve stumbled across that inspired you to seek more information?
What discussions would you gravitate towards if you heard people talking about issues at a party? Spend some time thinking about your answers to these questions; you might be surprised to see a pattern emerge based on what info you&apos;re reading, following, or seeking out.
Ask your friends and family what they care about.
We often surround ourselves with like-minded people and it&apos;s possible that they might name something that resonates with you too.
Getting the most out of volunteering.
You’re donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. It’s important to make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit and to communicate with the people you’re working with in the volunteer organization.
Ask questions. You want to make sure that the experience is right for your organizations skills, goals, and the time you want to spend. If you have any questions, be sure to speak up.
Make sure you know what’s expected. Before starting, make sure you are comfortable with the project, know what is expected, and understand the time commitment. Consider starting small so that you don’t over commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility to change your focus if needed.
Don’t be afraid to make a change. Speak up if yur experience isn’t what you expected. Don’t force yourself into a bad fit. Talk to the organization about changing your focus.
Enjoy yourself. Most importantly, make sure you’re having fun! The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and the organization. If you’re not enjoying yourself, ask yourself why.
Is it the tasks you’re performing?
The people you’re working with?
Or are you uncomfortable simply because the situation is new and familiar?
Pinpointing what’s bothering you can help you decide how to proceed.