Let’s start with the definition of a volunteer for a charitable nonprofit organization: /ˌvɑl·ənˈtɪr/. › a person who does something for the benefit of a nonprofit, especially for other people or for an organization, willingly and without being forced or paid to do so, and without expectation of receiving any other tangible benefit in return.
So, are there benefits to being a volunteer? Well, monetarily a volunteer is not paid, so where’s the value? The Independent Sector, an organization that gathers tons of statistics about charitable activities, places an Estimated National Value of Each Volunteer Hour every year. That value stands, as of 2017, at $24.69 an hour. The actual amount varies from state to state, but we can see that volunteers are very valuable people. But since we don’t pay them how do we determine and evaluate the value of a volunteer?
For most volunteers, monetary reasons never cross their mind. To help others with the passion and drive that’s inside of them are the main forces behind volunteerism. It’s the intangible benefits that often are the desires of volunteers by the service and giving of themselves to enrich, help and further the goals of nonprofits that interest them.
Here are 10 reasons why some people volunteer:
1.) Helping your community become a better place. You and other volunteers impact your community in ways no other can. When you care and work in your community the positive impact is seen through unselfish actions, with a desire to benefit others. In fact, a recent Points of Light Study found that “Volunteering helps build a more cohesive, safer, stronger community.”
2.) Connect with other people, not only improving the lives of others by impacting your life well beyond expectations. From cleaning a local park with a group to making visits to a local care facility to spend time with the elderly. Connecting with others has health benefits that are immeasurable and emotionally impactful.
3.) Combats loneliness. When you volunteer you connect with others. The Campaign to End Loneliness reports that almost 45 percent of people in the US admit that they are lonely. And 1 out of 10 says that they do not even have 1 close friend. When you volunteer you plug into a social network that thrives on being around others which in turn helps combat a lonely heart.
4.) Improves socializing skills. Psychology Today says that volunteering has some positive long-term effects on improving mental and physical health. By volunteering you help with better brain function and lower risk for depression and anxiety. It also has a positive effect on building a stronger immune system.
5.) Improves emotional wellbeing and stability. By having a meaningful purpose for volunteering you create a connection to others that help decrease symptoms of such disorders like depression, Post-Traumatic Stress, low self-esteem, and even Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. All this because volunteering helps improve your social function.
6.) Combats mental illness. Volunteering helps promote the well being of others and makes us feel happier in the process. It also creates a sense of connection that makes making someone else’s life a little bit easier directly affect our own wellbeing.
With an estimated 50% of inmates in the U.S. with some form of mental illness, volunteering has a profound effect on improving the mental wellbeing of this population because the root purpose of volunteering is about people, about relationships. A popular program for this segment of society is from such groups as Paws for Life and Dawgs in Prison which allow inmates to train shelter dogs. Working with animals has a calming effect and they commit more readily to their own rehabilitation too when working with animals.
Working with animals has a similar result when working with our honored Veterans with PTSD too. On a more practical level working with animals helps reduce stress, gives people the tools they need to be happier, healthier and well-rounded individual who are young at heart.
7.) Increase longevity. As research shows, seniors that volunteer over 100 hours per year have the propensity to live longer, are healthier and happier. This is attributed to having a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning and the satisfaction of doing good and helping others.
8.) Has a positive effect on reducing Alzheimer’s. As research continues, it is apparent the volunteering has a positive effect on reducing the risk of dementia.
9.) Helps you to grow older more gracefully. With being able to start your day with purpose, getting out of the house and with goals for accomplishing tasks at hand leads to improved health both mentally and physically. This helps by being engaged which can make one feel younger and even the chronically ill showing fewer symptoms and pain.
10.) Builds bonds and increased the number of friends you make. Volunteering will most undoubtedly create new friendships and strengthen the ones you already have. People will grow closer by common passion goals and develop better connections, more powerful attachments to people when they work together.
It’s amazing how volunteering can impact our lives in such a wonderful way. Its benefits are often described as being more beneficial to the volunteer than the organization they are helping. The sense of accomplishment, the feeling of giving back, helping others and blessing someone with your time and talent is one of our most monumental achievements in our lives.