National Volunteer Appreciation Month: What Are the Benefits of Volunteering?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 Two of our Adolescent Book Group volunteers facilitating a book discussion at La Mesa Blended Community School. Photo credit: goldfacephoto.com

Two of our Adolescent Book Group volunteers facilitating a book discussion at La Mesa Blended Community School. Photo credit: goldfacephoto.com

As we enter National Volunteering Month, take a moment to think to yourself: when is the last time you set aside a few hours to give back to your community? If it’s been longer than you would like to admit, you are similar to nearly 75% of Americans, according to 2015 data from the Corporation for National and Community Service. For those of you that perhaps don’t volunteer as often as you would like, take a look below at the amazing benefits that volunteering can give you!

Networking Opportunities

Volunteering brings people from many backgrounds together with the goal of working for one common cause. There is no better place to step outside your comfort zone and meet others. In the day and age of social media, you can easily stay in contact with those you meet at volunteering events to plan attending future events, expand your friend circle, or further your professional network.

Expand Your Skill Set

The basis of volunteering your time or services to a cause is that you are not being monetarily compensated -- you are donating it! This gives you the perfect opportunity to give your time or services in exchange for experience, something that you cannot put a price on and is invaluable for your degree, career, family, or personal development. Even if gaining experience isn’t a focus for you, you can discover a new hobby through your newfound skills.

Explore a New Career

Perhaps you have spent your entire career in one field, but have always wondered about a different career. Many volunteering organizations work just like companies: the position you are contemplating is very likely available in some sort of volunteering organization. Keep your day job, but test out your skills with a volunteering group on the side who have any number of positions available: Event planner, Outbound Marketing, Tutor, Social Media Specialist -- the opportunities are endless!

Your Own Well-Being

It would be difficult to find someone who finished a volunteering event not feeling great about themselves. Volunteering is ultimately for the benefit of others (though we know there’s a lot in it for you), so when you see how thankful others are for your services, you can’t help to be proud of your hard work! As discussed in an essay titled “Helper’s High” by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander, people who give their time or money are 42% more likely to be happy. This aforementioned “Helper’s High” refers to the state of euphoria that is experienced when you give to others.

 Picture of long-time Words Alive volunteer Karen Malin holding a flower pot craft containing pictures of the students she reads to! The flower pot says, "Ms. Karen, thank you for helping us grow." 

Picture of long-time Words Alive volunteer Karen Malin holding a flower pot craft containing pictures of the students she reads to! The flower pot says, "Ms. Karen, thank you for helping us grow." 

Improve Your Community

Communities thrive off the participation and engagement of those within them, and the drive to improve it from within. Volunteering opportunities focus on just that: teaching, improving the health, or providing much-needed services for the members of your community. If the members of a community are not their own biggest advocates for improvement, others may struggle to hear their voices.

The benefits of volunteering are endless, as are the opportunities. A quick Google search for volunteering opportunities in your area will yield millions of results. VolunteerMatch is the largest online volunteer network, or you can search directly for the cause you care about to see what opportunities are available! At Words Alive, we appreciate all of our hard-working volunteers, and we are always ready to welcome more! If you enjoy teaching, working with children, or just want to explore our available opportunities, head to our main site and Get Involved!

Sources:

https://www.nationalservice.gov/vcla/national

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_helpers_high