Outwardly there is a huge need for volunteers to get involved and inwardly there are tremendous personal benefits to volunteering. Having spent over 2,000 volunteer hours doing anything from direct service- literally pulling weeds, all the way to capacity building- implementing programs at non-profits; I have compiled a list of all the reasons why I love volunteering and the joys anyone can share in donating their time.
- Learn new skills. The non-profit world is very resourceful as they are typically on a tight budget and this allows volunteers the chance to learn new skills. Before volunteering I had never written a press release, but knew I needed to when I was helping put on events for a non-profit and wanted to promote them. Being resourceful, I talked to someone who was skilled in this area, and so I learned, and even had the satisfaction to see them published in the newspaper.
- Make a difference. In day-to-day life, sometimes it’s difficult to see your work play out, but in volunteering you have the chance to see the immediate impact. I volunteered at a Food Bank one weekend and spent an entire day pulling weeds and overhauling a vegetable garden to prepare for new crops to be planted. While this was by no means easy work, it was truly satisfying seeing a field at the beginning of the day completely invested with weeds (you wouldn’t have even known this was a garden) to being transformed by the end of the day into a beautiful garden with defined rows and walkways. There’s something to be said about seeing the immediate impact of your work.
- Build confidence. Part of building confidence means continually growing and learning in life. In order to do that, you must take on new challenges and learn how to maneuver through these challenges to overcome them. By doing this, you grow a spirit of “I can do it!” from within, building your confidence and self-esteem. I was once fundraising for a non-profit and one of the tasks I signed up for was asking for donations from local businesses. Now, I had done sales before, but I had never done this sort of sale, which was essentially asking for something for free. I was nervous going into it, but after securing my first donation, I built a “can-do” attitude and the confidence to secure more donations.
- Have new experiences. You never know, while volunteering you might discover something you really love and develop a new passion or hobby. For me, volunteering in itself was just that and I never would have known had I not tried it.
- Step out of your comfort zone. Volunteering can offer you the chance to try doing something you’ve never done before. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to test the waters and see whether or not you like something before fully committing. For example, maybe you’re thinking about a career change and want to go into teaching, you could volunteer at an afterschool children’s program to see whether making this career change is the right move for you.
- Gain new perspectives. Depending on where you volunteer, you may be exposed to things you’ve never seen before. I was 12 years old when I had my first volunteer experience that really impacted me. As part of a club that I was involved in at school, I collected toiletry items to donate to a homeless shelter. After collecting these basic bathroom essentials for over a month, we took a bus to Skid Row in Los Angeles. This was the first time I had been exposed to poverty at its worst and I had seen things that I had never seen before on both the sidewalks and in the shelter itself. The experience really stuck with me and opened my eyes to extreme poverty in our country.
- Feel good about yourself. Giving services, time, energy, love, and compassion to those less fortunate than ourselves has its’ own special rewards. Volunteering increases your self-worth and can fill the void of an empty heart with the incredible feeling of happiness and contentment found in the act of giving.
- It’s fun. What’s not to love in making friends, building confidence, and seeing an impact? It’s fun to see your work come together and bring smiles and laughter to people’s faces.
- Make new friends. I cannot stress this benefit enough. Some of my closest friends today, I have met through various volunteer projects and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Volunteering is a great way to meet kind, good-hearted people.
- Connect and network in community. If you’re new to a community, one of the best ways to get involved is by volunteering. Your volunteer work can expose you to people, businesses, and organizations across the community. It opens up the opportunity to network and is a great conversation starter while attending local events. Most of my volunteer work has taken place in a single community and it makes me feel connected to my community, I care a little more, and it even makes me proud to live where I do.
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