Are you considering to try on volunteering? Or are you simply looking for something new to do?
Fifteen real-life volunteers share their experiences, and benefits and reasons why volunteering can be important to you.
Jennifer Lee Magas, MA, JD
Vice President, Magas Media Consultants, LLC
I’ve been hiring people and teaching for over 24 years, and volunteering by far is the best resume builder! Right now, my students and I have worked in the classroom to provide pro bono PR services for an upcoming Special Olympics penguin plunge in April.
Outside of the classroom, for over 19 years I have engaged my students in volunteering and service learning through the promotion of local charity and non-profit events which have raised over $100K for worthwhile causes including penguin plunges and 5K races whose proceeds go to local Special Olympic athletes, food pantries, drug and alcohol awareness programs, home heating assistance, educational initiatives and life-changing programs for the children lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Not only are these students finding a link between their classes and the professional world, but they also touch the lives of others in their required classes positively.
Volunteering helps you land a job
One of the best feelings is a sense of accomplishment. Volunteering is an activity that falls in line here by giving you the philanthropic feeling of giving back as well as increasing your self-worth and confidence. Most volunteer opportunities stimulate your creativity and aid in diversifying your experiences.
It’s a great way to test your feelings about whether that position is a good fit for you. Worse comes to worst, you gave back and helped people out.
That is a value that lots of employers respect since it shows you care for a cause and can potentially bring that same level of dedication to the organization you are applying for or other philanthropic endeavors. Volunteering will not only enhance your professional experience but your personal experience as well.
Every volunteering opportunity will typically involve teams, allowing you to build both your professional and personal networks. You will also be learning new skills that you can take into the workforce, like data analysis, leading a coordinated effort, promotion, etc.
Lastly, you can get a feel for the modern working environment and can sample the demands of today’s business climate and work with all types of people. The sheer amount of perks volunteering adds to your skills, networks, and career potential makes the experience a no-brainer to set out and try.
Here are more quick thoughts on how volunteering can help you expand skills sets and land a job:
- Those who volunteer show more drive because they are working hard for no financial reward
- Volunteers often have heavy workloads because you can’t hire someone to do things for you, this will teach you to manage a great deal of responsibility
- Volunteers often have the goal of raising money, which shows they can manage money and determine appropriate means to get donations
- Choosing to volunteer while balancing other work and personal responsibilities indicate potential to employers that you can manage your time, that you are driven and committed
- Volunteering helps you get experience if you have a hard time getting relevant work experience
- It will fill your resume if you have gaps or need experience
- Volunteering is an excellent way to network and makes new contacts in a given field; this could lead to landing a job in that field
Clinical Psychologist | Certified Neurotherapist
I learned the importance of volunteering from my parents when I was a young girl. It was instilled in me, and therefore, I continue it into adulthood, as it is my firm belief that we should all do things for the betterment of others, the community, and society as a whole of which we are not paid.
There is a wealth of benefits to volunteering, personal (i.e., making friends), professional (i.e., building your resume or college application), physical (getting more movement in).
Volunteering has benefits for the brain too
Studies show the social connection, the reduction in stress, and the improvement in mood-related to volunteering increases serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamines in the brain. They’re all feel-good neurochemicals we naturally want more of.
The increase in these leads to a better overall brain health. Also, the more we naturally produce these neurochemicals, the more we improve our immune systems.
Furthermore, volunteering allows us to focus on others and feel empowered to be a part of solutions. Volunteering can also help us realize that no matter how bad we think things are in our lives, things could be worse.
Many people who volunteer express more gratitude. You’d focus less on your problems, and have more gratitude and more “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain. So the bottom line is you want to volunteer for a wealth of benefits, including a healthy mind, which impacts everything else, your mood, behaviors, and thoughts.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to help others and feel good about yourself while doing so.
When you give of yourself to others, you find aspects of yourself you never knew existed
I have volunteered in numerous capacities, from raising money for kids with cancer to packing food boxes for people in need. There was a time when we cooked a full pan of food (basically a souffle) for someone who hosted many guests every week. That was fascinating because I had to deliver it to a different part of town using a bike!
Many people nowadays are interested in being happier, finding enlightenment, finding their way in life. This is a big part of volunteering – the more you are focused only on yourself, the more you are focused on your own needs, the less you will feel amazing.
The opposite is also true. The more you think about other people, the more you help other people, the more you do selfless acts to give people things they didn’t necessarily have but need, the more you find within yourself all of the serenity that you may have looked for in other places.
Giving of yourself selflessly is getting in the most profound way.
Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
Volunteering is a great way to get to know like-minded people who care about causes you believe in
Whether you give time to a local nonprofit or join a committee of a charity, you’ll meet others who can see your work ethic and passion.
They get to know you on a personal level, so it is a very natural way to network through the joint mission. I am on the boards of several nonprofits and gotten to know people I have hired or recommended to others. Volunteering is the ultimate way to do well by doing good. In my experience, the more you give, the more you get.
Chief Shift Officer, Peloton Coaching and Consulting
I’ve been an ally for gender equality since my daughters were born and a member of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) for over a decade. My appreciation for the challenges my female colleagues face daily didn’t fully develop until I started volunteering for the HBA in 2014.
Volunteering provided an excellent opportunity to meet more members and, more importantly, have in-depth conversations with them. During them, they shared specific challenges and helped accelerate my empathy and passion for fighting harder for equality.
Volunteering brings you closer to others and their stories
It helped me realize that even though I started as a gender parity champion, I still have a lot to learn. Volunteering also helped me find other leaders who were passionate about supporting others.
Through my volunteerism, my network now consists of a higher percentage of equality advocates, women, and men. And although I volunteer to give back, I’ve found that it has helped my business because by rolling up my sleeves, awareness, and trust developed.
Additionally, it’s put me in a position to help former clients and direct reports. Through my new connections, I’ve made introductions that have helped them land new jobs. It’s a beautiful win-win-win situation.
Finally, volunteering has helped me strengthen my leadership skills even though I’ve led teams as large as 1,000 and serve as a leadership coach today. I’m the first male chapter president in the HBA’s 42-year history, and the team/chapter is 99% female.
I’m leading as the minority in the room, and as a white male, this is a new feeling.
It’s enhanced my communication agility, and most importantly, it’s helped me experience what it feels like to be in the minority. In my opinion, it’s an experience that more of my male colleagues should seek out to help them develop more empathy for those in the minority all the time.
Volunteering provides individuals with the opportunity to connect with others while investing in their community. Especially when moving to a new place, volunteering can help develop community and find like-minded people interested in a similar topic.
Alternatively, volunteering can support your community – helping you to invest in people, arts, places, and other parts of the city, ensuring long term development.
You can use volunteering to advocate for important issues to yourself
For example, many women I know are active with the League of Women Voters – being politically active without being political in this era might be particularly attractive. You could also volunteer in a sector new to you or industry of interest.
Volunteering can support your skill acquisition in that new sector that you can leverage in the future for job positions. Volunteering is a shot of joy – providing others with your time and expertise with no expectation of anything in return is inherently a happiness boost – the bonus is that nearly always, you do get something out of it.
I regularly volunteer with the National Park Service – not only do I consistently meet amazing and interesting people when I’m at the park, it’s a radical departure from my day-to-day job and helps me recenter and fulfill other parts of my personality.
Sheryl Green, MA
Director of Communication, Cuddling for Hearts Alive Village | Author, Surviving to Thriving: How to Overcome Setbacks and Rock Your Life
You can empower others through volunteering
With a Masters in Psychology, I’d spent years studying depression and its symptoms. None of that prepared me for actually experiencing it. After a devastating divorce, I found myself bankrupt, depressed and living in the spare bedroom at my parent’s house.
Thankfully, my stepmom gave me the best advice ever given: “Go do something for someone else.”
Having always loved animals, I spoke with some women from a local rescue group and discovered that people were leaving their pets behind in foreclosed homes. Now I had a mission. I began my volunteering journey with a yard sale, raising $1,000 for the rescue.
Since then, I’ve volunteered at adoption events, walked dogs at the shelter, hosted more significant community events, and I now serve on the board of Hearts Alive Village Las Vegas as the Director of Communications and Cuddling.
Animals saved my life, and I’ll spend the rest of my life saving theirs.
There are many benefits of volunteering:
- Focus on something besides your problems. We tend to get wrapped up in our own lives. Volunteering helps us look outside of ourselves.
- Find a purpose for living. Many people aren’t happy with their jobs and haven’t found their true calling. Volunteering can give you something to look forward to and a reason to get out of bed.
- Be happier. Studies show that the happiness we feel from buying things is fleeting. The joy we derive from helping others is long-lasting.
- Meet new friends and expand your network. You’ll be surrounded by people who care about the same things you care about. You’ll also meet people you’d never have met otherwise.
- Improve your business. Volunteering can help you reach new markets, and standing for a cause builds a stronger, more likable brand.
If you’re going through a difficult time in your life, get involved. Empower others through volunteering, and you’ll empower yourself.
Volunteer, I helped change the world
Volunteering can give you a purpose in life
Thirty-two years ago, I was involved in a nasty airplane accident. It was September 14th, 1987, the day I should have died.
When the airplane hit the ground and exploded, I was trapped inside. As I kicked and fought to get out, I remember taking what I thought was my last breath. Flames scorched my throat while hot air and smoke filled my lungs.
As I prepared to die, everything I thought was so necessary, career, home, possessions, etc., instantly became worthless, and the things I took for granted, family, wife, my son, became overwhelmingly important. In fact, in whatever amount of nanoseconds it took, my mind focused intently on my son, who was 9-months old at the time.
I put my head in my arm while engulfed in flames and prayed. “Not yet, God, please don’t let me burn to death.” The thought of my son losing his father seemed more traumatic to me than what I was physically enduring at the moment.
The next thing I knew, I was out of the airplane, on my hands and knees, trying to crawl away from the aircraft. The second fuel tank blew, and I felt the searing heat hit my back.
I woke up in a burn unit 14 days later. I tried to turn my head to see where I was. I was in immense pain, really foggy, and had some morphine cocktail pulsing through my veins. A charred part of my ear broke off and rolled down my pillow. I knew I was in trouble.
My body was severely beaten up and covered of 3rd and 4th-degree burns. I was in critical condition for 47 days and in the hospital for what seemed like an eternity, enduring 33 surgeries over 6 1/2 years and endless physical therapy. There’s much more to the story, but that’s for another time.
I worked hard on my recovery much harder than most. It did not go unnoticed. One of the patients in the hospital with me was having a rough go of it. He was unmotivated and somewhat distraught, a result of his disfiguring trauma.
His medical team was not only worried that his state of mind would negatively impact his quality of life, but they were concerned his life itself could be at stake if his mental state did not improve. One of the nurses had the idea to put us in the same room, hoping my optimism and high level of motivation might rub off on him a little. It did.
Within a week or two, we were both working our butts off, trying our best to heal and heal quickly. Within a few months, he was on his feet again and fighting with his doctor for a discharge, wanting to go home and restart his life. My life as a volunteer involuntarily started.
I’ve been volunteering as somewhat of a trauma coach ever since. The height of my efforts was a 5-year stint at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio TX, where I worked with soldiers who were severely injured in the Iraq and Afganistan wars.
My patients were the worst of the worst. Large burns, traumatic amputations, TBI’s, etc., were all commonplace. It’s hard to describe the reward one feels from helping others negotiate their trauma.
It’s not hard work; you leverage your own experience having already gone through the process yourself. In the end, however, I think it gives my life purpose.
As funny as it may sound, I’m thankful to have experienced the plane crash and the resulting brush with death, knowing it’s allowed me to help so many others who have endured similar traumas, as well as their families, friends, and loved ones.
ICU’s, burn units, trauma centers, are usually filled with highly trained medical personnel who represent the top performers in their field. I’ve watched them put people with half their heads blown off, with severe burns, and multiple involuntary amputations, back together again.
What’s missing is an experiential component. That’s where I come in. A lot of times I don’t even have to bring any expertise to the table, I just need to show up.
Mothers, fathers, spouses, siblings, etc., are encouraged only to see someone who experienced a horrific trauma that is a happy, healthy, contributing member of society. I feel right about that.
Do you ever wonder if the reason you were allowed to experience something challenging in life so that you could be a benefit to others who are suffering a similar fate?
I do, and it makes me feel special like I was somehow chosen.
Bunny Dachs, MBA
Owner, Bunny’s Home Care
My career has always focused on healthcare. I used to volunteer in a camp for children with illnesses and continues to do so as a friendly visitor to the elderly today. My line of business deals with the senior population, attending to their needs, looking after their concerns. Volunteering is in my DNA, you may say.
The elderly community is one of the most neglected sectors in society. While most of them can do little to help themselves, they’re often not properly cared for and receive so little respect from the people around them. Add to that feeling of financial insecurity, social isolation, and melancholy, and you get a discriminated aged community.
Visiting them is just an extension of what I do for a living, but it has become an excellent opportunity for me to touch their lives.
Volunteering is altruism translated into meaningful and powerful action
Every time I step into their doors, no two perspectives on aging are the same. There’s always a new story to hear, a fresh idea to share, a recollection of high school dances to reminisce.
And by pulling up a chair and lending an ear to these beautiful people, their loneliness is somehow eased, making hours more cherished instead of spending another ordinary day on the couch watching reruns of Days of Our Lives.
A great lesson I learned from my experiences in volunteering is the more time we spend with these people who hardly have any of their family members come around, the more we find value in the time we have on us.
Head of Running Content, RunRepeat
To volunteer means to help someone or to make something happen, for free. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn, explore, experience.
The first thing that volunteers experience is usually a rewarding action of giving.
Volunteering teaches us how communities are relevant and fight for the right cause
Furthermore, volunteering might give us a chance to leave a legacy. Nothing beats that.
The other essential dot on this learning curve is realizing how the world works. We tend to have some assumptions and expectations, and we sometimes think that the world of volunteering is pure and filled with honesty, integrity, rules. Oh, how wrong we might be.
Volunteering world is usually filled with all the ingredients that are present everywhere else. That’s why this experience is so valuable; it’s a reality check; it bursts our bubble and makes us grow up. It makes us see things as they are.
There’s nothing wrong with this, and it doesn’t diminish the volunteering experience. On the contrary, all this makes us fight harder and stronger. It teaches us that persistence matters.
Volunteers are usually really diverse people. In today’s world, filled with prejudices, this is crucial. We need more diverse cultures in one place, more learning about different traditions, routines, habits, religions. This is how we make the world a better place.
This is how we work towards understanding, tolerance, empathy.
That’s how we go from indifferent to curious, or even passionate. That’s how we stop turning our heads away and do something.
Elise di Sabella
Volunteering is an essential component of almost every critical movement I can recall in US History. Passion and commitment are essential to moving causes forward.
Volunteering is about choice and support
Volunteering is about community; it is giving back to the community in which you live and work.
I have been fortunate to work for organizations that believe in social and corporate responsibility. These organizations have provided time off and compensation for employees to give back.
This support helps create a sense of community among employees and supports work-life balance with an added sense of flexibility. Many schools also support or even require students to volunteer several hours before graduation.
When you volunteer in the community in which you work or go to school, it provides you an opportunity to network and build relationships with community leaders. These relationships help organizations understand how they can best support their local workforce and community.
The known benefits of volunteering include reducing stress, lowering anxiety and depression, increasing self-confidence, and providing a sense of purpose. Volunteering can also help offer team-building opportunities and allows employees to interact in a fun and meaningful setting.
As a professional, volunteering provides an opportunity for leaders to give back to emerging professionals via mentoring, career coaching, building skills, resume reviews, and much more. In a nutshell, it feels good to do good, and we can all use a dose of feel-good activities.
LGBT+ Activist | Beauty Influencer
Volunteering is life-changing
Through volunteer work, I’ve made new friends, advanced my career, and learned new skills that will help me in my everyday life. I spend a lot of my free time volunteering at an LGBT+ drop-in center for youth that wants to have a place to be themselves.
I’ve noticed after doing this, my mental and physical health has improved tremendously. I feel a lot better about myself, knowing that I’m doing good things in the community that I’m apart of. I’ve done food face masks with the kids; I even taught them how to do pride makeup during pride month.
Through this volunteer work, I’ve felted connected to others in my community. This was important for me because growing up, I didn’t have a support system or community that these kids have. So to help be apart of that, my heart is filled with joy. By doing this, I’ve been able to advance my career.
I just recently through a Halloween Ball for 21+ LGBT+ folks of color. The event turns out was amazing and was able to get more volunteers for the work that we do! Ultimately, as a whole, I feel amazing, and now I’m always looking for a way I can help out and give back to the community.
Volunteering is all-around important. Helping people who need a helping hand is what’s going to shape the future. There comes a time in life where everyone will need a helping hand with something. Why not be that person to lend an extra hand to someone who may need the assistance.
CEO, 11Eleven Consulting
There are a plethora of reasons why volunteering is important and beneficial. As an expert in the corporate citizenship space, as well as an avid volunteer, I have studied and experienced the many different ways in which serving others can be important.
Volunteering is a valuable experience
While the sharing of good vibes, time, and talent is hard to quantify, it is a valuable experience. For the nonprofit, volunteering is important because it provides the organization with much-needed assistance or expertise. And in most cases, this saves them valuable funds and resources as they are receiving needed help gratis.
For the volunteer, there are many reasons why the act of volunteering can be meaningful. By volunteering, the person is connecting with others and providing aid to groups with shared values. The connectivity this brings into a person’s life offers great significance and can even develop their skills in many ways.
This also allows the volunteer to experience the sense of gratitude that their service brings, which provides them with more reason to feel that they are a valuable member of society. Moreover, the volunteer experience a powerful emotional reaction to the act of paying it forward.
The “Helper’s High,” as it is called, has been proven through numerous studies. These studies gauge that between 70%-95% of volunteers feel better or healthier after helping those in need. This euphoric feeling is something that keeps people coming back to volunteer and also serves as the most beneficial reason for the volunteer to be if service.
Financial Literacy Educator for Young Persons, Sawyerrs’ House Foundation for Young Persons
As a volunteer e-mentor for an international organization for young people and another charity organization, here are my views based on my experiences:
- Volunteering is the easiest and best way to acquire experience in a specific area of work that one may desire to work in the future.
- Volunteering helps one gain the experience of working alongside other people with little or a lot of work experience other than volunteering.
- It is important to volunteer because it is a hands-on way of directly giving back to those in greater need than us.
- Volunteering has the hidden benefits of repaying the volunteer in unimaginable and positive ways because it offers enriching experiences.
- Volunteering means that the employer has a ready supply of employees who help keep those specific services running for many years.
- Volunteering can also be a hobby whereby the volunteer can specialize in a specific area such as fundraising or managing other staff.
Certified Business Strategist
I started volunteering in my early 20’s and never stopped. I’ve volunteered with many types of projects ranging from working on a Crisis Hotline, building bleachers in the military to sharing my abuse story for domestic violence shelters.
What I’ve learned over time is the amazing benefits of volunteering, whether it’s willing or “Vol-N-Told” participation can lead to incredible benefits for your community, personal life, and business just like it did for me. For instance, making time to volunteer helped me prioritize a positive work-life balance and realize I wasn’t as busy as I thought I seemed i.e., spending more time with my family.
Volunteering can inspire you to be healthier
Another benefit is how it inspired my workout routine and healthier eating habits, which enabled me to perform more physical volunteer demands i.e., lifting boxes of books or clothes donated to a domestic violence shelter, walking around the city to feed 200+ homeless, etc.
Volunteering challenges me to perfect my expertise, what I refer to as my God-given talents i.e., guest speaking, coaching, etc. Becoming proficient in my abilities allowed me to unearth prior skills, which helps others to live their best life i.e., using my counseling skills in domestic violence family group facilitation.
But what’s most important about volunteering is seeing the immediate return on my investment (time) and receiving feelings of appreciation, love, etc. And knowing my one minute or one hour of volunteer service helped change the trajectory of another human being’s life i.e., answering questions at my church information desk, answering calls on the survivor abuse hotline, etc.