Americans are volunteering more than ever. According to a federal study released by the Corporation for National and Community Service, 77 million adults volunteered through an organization in 2018. That represents nearly 7 billion hours, worth an estimated $167 billion in economic value.
If you aren’t currently volunteering, here are five great reasons to consider doing so:
1. It’s good for the cause you’re supporting. Many worthwhile causes need volunteers. The organization might support the arts, animals, children, the environment or human rights, just to name a few. The decision of where you volunteer is yours. Do your homework and find an organization you’re passionate about. The time you give them is priceless.
2. It’s good for the organization you’re volunteering at. Speaking of priceless, most not-for-profit organizations rely on the expertise of volunteers. Honestly, it saves them money. A volunteer technology expert can save the company from hiring someone. Or a volunteer lawyer can offer advice on an “as needed” basis. Being able to tap into the expertise of others allows you to give (see #1) and a worthwhile organization to receive.
3. It’s good for your employer. Many companies encourage volunteerism as a way to give back to the community. It’s a part of their core organizational values. Some companies even provide employees time off to volunteer as a benefit. Check with your human resources department to see if there are causes the company supports and opportunities to volunteer as part of the company’s team.
4. It’s good for you professionally. If you’re looking to expand your skills, volunteering can be a way to learn. For example, let’s say you want to learn more about sales. Volunteer to help with fundraising. Or if you’re looking to network in your profession, volunteer in a professional association or an industry organization. These groups also need volunteers and actively promote skills-building as a benefit of volunteer participation.
5. It’s good for you personally. Putting professional reasons aside for a moment, being a volunteer can make us feel good. We’re doing something that’s appreciated by others (and organizations are usually really good about telling you they appreciate your efforts). When we volunteer, we can be more social and make new friends. Even if you volunteer online or in a remote capacity, your interactions aren’t forgotten. You’ll still build relationships and contribute in a valuable way.
Often the hardest part of volunteering isn’t deciding whether to do it. It’s deciding what organization to partner with and finding the time. Three questions to ask yourself as you’re thinking about volunteering:
• What am I hoping to achieve from my volunteer work? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having volunteer goals (see #2 above). Understanding what those are could help guide you toward the right organization and the right volunteer role.
• How many hours can I realistically give to volunteer time? The biggest mistake people make when volunteering is overcommitting. So be honest with yourself. How much time can you really give? Put some boundaries around your volunteer time so you can do it well and not get overwhelmed.
• What are the ideal days and times I can volunteer? Once you know how much time you can give, look at your schedule and figure out when you can give the hours. If you want volunteering to be a pleasant experience, then it’s important to do it when you have the availability. Ideally, any volunteer role you’re considering will allow you to work when you want, as much as you can, doing a task you find interesting.
Your volunteer efforts are needed
Don’t let that statistic from the CNCS fool you. While many Americans are volunteering, there are still lots of volunteer opportunities available. Being a volunteer is good for you and the organizations you’re giving time to. The key to a successful volunteer partnership is finding the opportunity that works well for you and your goals.