Think of the word “volunteers” and you might picture a group of people so generous that they put aside the fun things in life – say, Xbox games and time on the beach – in favor of spending dull, grinding hours at soup kitchens and nursing homes. And yet, oddly enough, people who volunteer are often happier than those who don’t – whether they give their free time at a shelter or take on a prominent role in their town.
Why Volunteering Is Good for Your Health
It might seem counter-intuitive, but helping others can actually be a selfish way to spend time. Volunteers aren’t just happier than other people, they’re also healthier, with less likelihood of having a number of serious health conditions. Even more surprising, people who spend time volunteering may feel they have more free time than those who don’t. They have learned the art of multitasking and get the self-satisfaction of feeling more efficient as a result.
Why Volunteering Is Good for Your Career
If more happiness and better health aren’t enough to convince you to take the time to volunteer, what about career advancement? For people who are unemployed or recent graduates who haven’t found a job in their field, volunteering can be a great way to get experience. Few organizations will pass up free help with building databases, running fundraising campaigns, or designing marketing materials – all of these can be great resume enhancers. Even high-level professionals often find that volunteering on the board of a local charity teaches them new things about managing an organization.
How to Volunteer
Of course, not every kind of volunteer work is for everyone. But, fortunately, there is a huge range of organizations looking for free help, and they’re seeking a huge range of talents. Do you like building things? Find a local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Love animals? Your local animal shelter is probably looking for someone to walk the dogs or help with adorable cats. You’ll be a better volunteer, and more likely to keep at it, if you find something that you enjoy.
For many people, volunteer work is an extension of other parts of their lives. Parents are especially likely to volunteer, and for many of them that means helping at their kids’ school, coaching a Little League team, or leading a scouting troop. Many older volunteers – and plenty of younger ones too – join their churches in service projects in the local neighborhood or halfway around the world.
In some cases, the ideal volunteer job may be one that happens only occasionally. That could be helping to organize a team for the American Cancer Society’s popular Relay for Life events or taking part in a holiday food drive. On the other hand, a regular gig like a once-a-week shift at a food pantry can help build lasting relationships with other volunteers and be less disruptive to your routine.
Speaking of routine, one great driver for many volunteers is support from the organization that takes up the bulk of their time – their employer. Some companies encourage workers to support local organizations by offering a few paid days a year for helping out. Others round up employees in a big annual push like local United Way branches’ Days of Caring. Bosses find these events are also excellent for team building because they bring people from different parts of the company together in a new setting. And local organizations like them because people who spend one day volunteering are likely to come back for more.
That’s one of the key aspects about volunteering. It can be hard to get started, but people who have helped out with an organization a few times tend to see how what they’re doing is generous as well as helpful to themselves at the same time.
Written by Livia Gershon for CreditDonkey.com.
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