When asked why they volunteer, many people cite emotional, altruistic reasons such as it makes them happy, they want to give back, or they want to help others. While those reasons are fine for many people who volunteer, if you need more selfish incentives to get started volunteering, there are many benefits you can enjoy as a volunteer.
Volunteering helps more than just the people or organization you assist; there are many ways volunteering can help you.
Gain Experience: Volunteering can help you try out new jobs or tasks to decide if you truly like them before you make a more firm commitment. Thinking of a career as a nurse? Volunteer at a hospital, hospice, or nursing home to see if you enjoy it. As a volunteer, you can try new activities and not be at a loss if it doesn’t work out.
College Applications: Volunteering looks great on college applications, but the problem is that many applicants already know that. If you volunteer for years at the same organization, however, that shows a greater commitment that can stand out to college admissions committees. Furthermore, the longer you volunteer, the more likely it is that you will take on different roles and greater responsibilities that will distinguish you from other applicants.
Scholarships: Many schools now require volunteer service for graduation, so scholarship committees are no more impressed with minimal volunteering than admissions representatives are. But volunteering for extended periods of time and taking more important roles as a volunteer shows initiative and commitment that will give you a better chance of receiving substantial scholarship awards.
Academic Credit: Charter schools, alternative schools, and even some colleges and universities may accept volunteer service for academic credit. Before taking advantage of this, check with the educational institution to see what service they will or won’t accept; typically, volunteering must be related to your course of study to count. Some classes may require volunteering as part of the course experience as well.
Resumes and References: Adding volunteering to a resume is a way to show that you are more than just your career and that you are willing to take on additional responsibilities as required. Through your volunteer work, you may also earn the respect and admiration of supervisors and coworkers who would be willing to write letters of recommendation or serve as references.
Get Hired: Some volunteer opportunities can lead directly to employment as job positions open up. Through a history of reliable volunteering, you’ve already proven your value to the organization and may be considered for hiring without needing extensive interviewing or other application tasks.
Learn New Skills: Volunteering gives you the opportunity to learn new skills that you can then apply in your own life. Want to do your own landscaping or plant a vegetable garden? Volunteer with a community garden or horticulture center to learn the tricks of the trade from supervising professionals. Similar skills can be learned in any volunteer opportunity, depending what you’d like to learn.
Make Friends: Adults and teens who have a hard time making friends can augment their social life through volunteering. As a volunteer, you will meet people who share the same experiences and interests you do, making it easier to gain new friends. This is especially valuable for homeschooled students, stay-at-home parents, or anyone with unique interests.
Behind-the-Scenes Perks: Many volunteer opportunities offer behind-the-scenes benefits you can take advantage of just by being a volunteer member of the staff. For example, charity thrift store volunteers may be eligible for discounts or could set aside items they’re interested in purchasing. Library volunteers may be able to request new books and other materials before they’re available to the public, and similar opportunities are available through many volunteer positions.
Better Health: Different studies have shown that volunteering has health benefits, including reduced stress and less anxiety. Depending on your health, you may also enjoy benefits such as weight loss (since you won’t be at home snacking as much), more exercise (while volunteering in outdoor positions), or just upping your positive endorphins through the tasks you complete to help others.
Networking: As a volunteer, you will meet new people in all types of positions, which can be valuable for both personal and professional networking. Depending on what other work you do, you may be able to market your services and skills to other volunteers, supervisors, or the organization you volunteer with.
Community Support: If you choose your volunteering carefully, you will be supporting the very programs, services, and organizations you use the most. If you always use library resources for books, movies, children’s programs, and internet access, for example, volunteering at the library can help ensure those services are available for your continuing use even when there are budgeting or scheduling difficulties.
Volunteering can be a great activity for people of all ages, skills, and abilities, but the savviest volunteers know how much volunteering can help them even while they help others. By taking advantage of the opportunities volunteering can bring you, you can enjoy many benefits at the same time an organization benefits from your volunteering.