What does volunteer work mean to you? Your mind may quickly go directly to the cause – whether it’s helping the homeless, caring for a pet in need or serving the elderly – the idea of making a difference in others’ lives is often what motivates these types of charitable efforts. But did you know there are even more benefits to volunteering than you may have even considered or thought of? These can range from social, emotional, physical and even professional perks that go hand-in-hand with the good you are giving back to society. Take a look:
- Builds A Sense of Community – when you volunteer, you meet others – usually likeminded individuals who live in close proximity. By making these connections, you can build long-lasting friendships, which in turn can strengthen the overall sense of community and feeling of belonging.
- Improves Self Esteem – volunteering can foster feelings of confidence and self-worth by feeling you are needed and part of something bigger than just yourself. This can boost your overall happiness and how you feel about yourself.
- Boosts Health – long-term volunteers have been known to live longer lives, have less disease and in general, have better overall health. In fact, one report claims people who volunteer 100 hours a year are some of the healthiest in the country. (1)
- Reduces Stress – although stress management is important for one’s overall health, it deserves its own call-out since 8 out of 10 Americans say they frequently or sometimes encounter stress in their daily lives.2 Considering how widespread and frequent stress is, volunteering can help manage it by giving us the tools and foundation to be happier, healthier and more well-rounded people. This can take the stress out of the original stress trigger you may have been feeling.
- Benefits the Brain – research has shown that people who volunteer may be at lower risk of dementia. Turns out that social service can actually improve the elasticity in the brain – which is especially important for aging adults. By maintaining these types of connections and functionality of the brain, it can help reduce that chance of Alzheimer’s.
- Especially Supports Aging Adults – older people who volunteer have been said to feel younger and some even noticed fewer symptoms and pain. Research has even shown that volunteers have less heart disease. (1)
- It Gets You Moving – volunteering gets you out of the office or off the couch and helps get you moving. No matter what cause you decide to get involved in, it requires physical energy that in turn is good for your body.
- Enhances Your Resume – volunteering also builds social skills and develops awareness, which have become key criteria in the college admissions process or job applications. Some schools even require this to get in, so if you start volunteering early, it can really pay off in the long run.
- Leads to Better Career Choices – along these same lines, job seekers will look for a company that aligns to their passions, interests or even a specific cause. Millennials especially typically prioritize a company’s civic duty as an important indicator when choosing a place to work. Others may factor in any corporate social responsibility programs or volunteer time-off as an important benefit to consider.
- Creates Travel Opportunities – volunteering can even open up opportunities abroad where you can see new parts of the world while giving back. “Voluntourism” trips have been introduced to bridge the gap between volunteering and tourism, to help give the best of both worlds.
And one of the top reasons is volunteering is just plain fun. It creates memories, connections and good times for those involved. It can also be contagious for those not involved – whether it’s through stories, pictures, social media or even donations.
As you can see, the list can go on and on around the benefits of volunteering. You really can’t go wrong. So where and how can you get started?
- Consider what motivates you – remember, volunteering isn’t like a job where you are paid in direct proportion to the time or work you put in. Instead, this service comes from the heart, so it’s even more important to ensure it is important to you. Whether you align it to a hobby such as running, a cause such as animal shelters or a situation such as caring for an aging parent, there are countless ways you can get involved.
- Find meaningful work – next find how you can support the cause you identified above. There is a ton of information online, including sites such as volunteermatch.org that can help you narrow down or find opportunities. Consider peers or likeminded individuals who may know of an opportunity or can introduce you to someone who can point you in the right direction. Or consider talking to friends or family members about their experiences volunteering and what they liked or didn’t like which will help you determine how to get involved.
- Get started – the most important step is to just get started. You know those people who are “all talk and no action” – don’t be one of those. Once you find what you want to do, give it a go and see how it goes. Nothing is permanent and you can start finding where you feel most comfortable and impactful in an organization or cause.
Volunteering has become a huge part of the world we live in. If you haven’t started finding ways to incorporate it into your life, you aren’t just missing a key part of giving back to society, but you could also be missing out on some personal benefits that go along with it.
After all, as the quote goes, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Volunteering is the first step to making this lasting foundation in both others and yourself.
ISU Credit Union cares deeply about our local communities. Through our Teal Team VI program we believe in "Fighting for a Better Community."