The Importance and Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering your time and effort within your community to support ideas you are passionate about or organizations you believe in helps you form bonds with others, and it can improve your quality of life. When you volunteer to help others, you contribute to a larger purpose and make a valuable difference in the lives of others. Let’s look at what volunteering is, why volunteering is important, and how volunteering can benefit you socially, emotionally, and professionally.
What is volunteering?
Volunteering is when you offer your time and services for free to a person, organization, or effort to better the community. Willingly giving your time and labor is an altruistic act that can directly affect individuals or raise money for the needs of others.
Why is volunteering important?
Volunteering is important because it helps us make a difference through individual acts, and it connects us to members of the community or to people or animals that need our support. Volunteering for nonprofit organizations, fundraising events, or community projects can have additional benefits beyond the immediate chance to support others. Opportunities to volunteer are available to accommodate many interests. Some typical ways to volunteer your time are:
- Walking dogs or cleaning for an animal shelter.
- Tending a community garden.
- Visiting a nursing home.
- Taking part in a highway clean-up.
- Reading to children at the local library or center.
- Leading an arts and crafts class for the community.
- Implementing a community recycling program.
- Donating to food pantries.
- Working at a soup kitchen.
- Building a playground.
The benefits of volunteering
Volunteering to assist others can prove beneficial in surprising or unintended ways. Although most people volunteer to contribute to the social well-being of people other than themselves, the act of volunteering can pay off for the volunteer as well. Here are some ways that acts of altruism are beneficial and reasons why volunteering is important socially, emotionally, and professionally.
The social benefits of volunteering
The following are a few reasons volunteer work is socially important:
1. Builds a sense of community
Working to help others in your community or working alongside other community members can help to foster positive relationships and provide a foundation for strong friendships. Learning to cooperate with those around you, and working toward a common goal builds trust.
2. Provides social interaction
We use social cues daily for survival within our environment and for a better understanding of one another. Volunteering encourages people from different backgrounds and ages to interact and strive for the acceptance of differing ideas and beliefs. Social interaction can improve your mental health, increase brain function, decrease the risk of depression, and build empathy.
3. Improves communication skills
Volunteering gives you an opportunity to practice your communication skills. Strong communication skills are important for success in both your personal and professional life. A safe environment where you can practice your communication skills and develop other soft skills is important for improving these qualities, and it can support your personal and professional growth.
4. Develops interpersonal skills
Your interpersonal skills are the qualities, attributes, and abilities you use to work cooperatively with others and navigate your relationships. Strongly developed interpersonal skills support your efforts to achieve goals and are important for being a good leader for others. Whether you want to lead your circle of friends on a road trip or serve as team leader on your next project at work, volunteering can help you develop the listening skills and optimism needed for success.
Why volunteering is important for emotional and physical well-being
Read below for some reasons you should volunteer for emotional and physical well-being.
1. Provides a sense of purpose
Setting goals in your personal and professional life helps you become a well-rounded and balanced individual. Volunteerism is a purposeful act that provides help and support to others in concrete ways. Whether you are working to raise funds for a nonprofit organization, running an office for the community, or offering your services and expertise free of charge to those less fortunate, the act of giving helps you focus on the greater good and provides personal fulfillment.
2. Builds self-esteem
Volunteering to do something for others is a gratifying experience that can provide you the opportunity to explore your interests and passions. Knowing that your actions impact others and seeing the positive effects of your contributions within a community can develop your confidence and self-worth. For volunteers of all ages, having a responsibility to others and being accountable gives direction and purpose.
3. Reduces stress
It is important to have an outlet that gives you the ability to disconnect from everyday stresses. Whether you are feeling pressure at home or at work, volunteering can help you manage daily stressors by showing your individual value as a contributing member of the community. You get to form social bonds that can serve as emotional support. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to take time for yourself and perform self-care by pursuing your interests.
4. Requires physical activity
Volunteering helps you remain physically active. Walking dogs for the animal shelter, giving horse riding lessons to support the physical rehabilitation efforts of patients, walking the hallways at the community center, or offering daycare services and reading at the local library all keep your body in motion. Giving your time to others decreases your screen time, helps you regulate your eating habits, and keeps you on a consistent schedule. Volunteering supports the development of healthy habits which, over time, can lead to a longer life and a healthier overall lifestyle.
5. Counters loneliness
When you contribute your efforts toward a cause or join an organization you believe in, you join a community of people. Volunteering gives you a sense of belonging and is a powerful counter to loneliness. You are able to build bonds with others based on common interests, and you can develop strong emotional ties to widen your social network.
6. Provides fulfillment
People are social creatures with an innate instinct to help. Helping others and giving to a cause greater than yourself is gratifying. Volunteering helps you create goals outside of your professional interests and provides the opportunity for your actions to create a positive impact for others within your community.
7. Builds confidence
Much of volunteering is the act of setting goals and taking steps to achieve them. Whether they are long-term goals that require continuous attention, such as creating and maintaining a community garden, or a short-term goal of building a swing-set in the local park, achieving these goals in cooperation with others gives a sense of accomplishment and builds confidence.
Why volunteering is important for career advancement
It is important to do volunteer work for professional development and personal fulfillment. You should volunteer because the skills you gain and implement when volunteering can help you advance your abilities, and you can apply your knowledge for professional advancement. Here are some ways volunteering is important to professional success.
1. Hones your transferrable skills
Transferrable skills are the abilities and traits that you can apply to help you succeed at almost any position within various industries. You gain these skills through other jobs, internships, education, and volunteering. The strengths you develop through your volunteer work, such as empathy and leadership traits, help add to your skill set used when applying for jobs and during the interview process. You can then apply the same qualities that guide your success as a volunteer to help you execute your daily responsibilities at work.
2. Gives the opportunity to network
Your volunteer work may relate to your occupation or profession. An elementary school teacher might enjoy reading at the community center. A scientist might like to lead a science camp for underserved children. A counselor can give his time at a youth center for at-risk teens. Through volunteering, you can meet people with similar backgrounds and interests, and this can help you expand your professional network and connections. You can use the people you meet through volunteer work as personal references or as sources for learning about new opportunities.
3. Teaches you critical thinking
The obstacles you encounter while volunteering may be similar to those you will have to overcome at work. You can develop your critical thinking skills through volunteerism by meeting challenges and working to find solutions.
4. Provides a way to learn new skills and gain experience
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to learn from others and develop skills you may not have. If your volunteer efforts relate to your profession, the hard skills you learn while volunteering can help you succeed at work. Depending on the time you can commit, you may even develop a relationship with a mentor who can provide expert advice.
5. Informs your resume
Volunteering is an excellent way to help you fill gaps within your resume. If you find yourself temporarily out of work, or between jobs, volunteer service can show your industriousness and work ethic.
6. Focuses your passions
Volunteering allows you to learn more about your passions and motivations. It can help you choose a career or transition to a different role that fulfills your passions.
7. Improves work/life balance
Volunteering helps you focus your free time and gain satisfaction in knowing you are contributing to making the world around you better. Being satisfied with how you use your personal time can help you feel a positive balance in your personal and professional life and be more productive at work.
Experience is the best teacher. The many benefits of volunteering can even prepare you for a future interview. A typical question for some interviews is “why is volunteering important?” With volunteer experience, you can provide an insightful response that showcases your expertise, addresses your experience and skills, and shows your fit for the role. Discover real interview questions asked for thousands of job titles.