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There is no doubt that the United States (and other countries around the world) rely on volunteers to provide a variety of community support. According to VolunteerHub, 25% of Americans volunteer and they contribute more than 184 billion dollars in value to the economy each year. But did you know that you can significantly improve your own life by volunteering? Donating your time and experience to a worthy cause is a terrific way to enrich your life while making a significant difference in the quality of life of others.
Broaden your experiences. There’s no question that you’ll get to develop new skills sometimes where you’d least expect it when you spend time volunteering, whether at the local animal shelter or a food pantry. One thing that is true about life at a non-profit is that there are never enough people to do all of the things that the organization hopes to accomplish. The great news for you is that by showing up to volunteer on a consistent basis, you’ll have the chance to try all sorts of new skills.
Start a career. One of the hardest aspects of beginning a new job is obtaining enough experience to land your first paid position. Instead of giving up on your career path, you should consider the opportunities that come with volunteering. Not only will you increase your relevant practice in a desired field, but you’ll also benefit by gaining those all-important professional references that will impress prospective employers.
Make new friends. Can you think of a better way to make new friends than to regularly hang out with people who share your commitment to a cause? At the very least, you’re sure to meet interesting people who will help to expand your social network. Many businesses plan group volunteer experiences for their employees because they believe that working together on a community project is a terrific way to promote bonding within the company. Take advantage of those opportunities to connect with others.
Boost your mental health. One of the most important benefits of volunteering is its positive impact on your mental health. Volunteering increases confidence, reduces stress and depression, improves feelings of being connected to others, and encourages your happiness.
Choose the right volunteer gig for you:
There are a variety of ways to volunteer and, with a little bit of research, you’re sure to find a position that meets what you’re looking for. An excellent place to start searching for ways to give back in your area is through your church, school, and employer-sponsored activities. Of course, one of the virtues of donating your services is that you can go outside of your comfort zone and contact any non-profit organization that may sound interesting.
These websites are a great place to start checking out volunteer opportunities near you:
- VolunteerMatch connects individuals with a host of non-profit groups in fields like Advocacy & Human Rights, Animals, Community, Computers & Technology and Arts & Culture. The website allows you to search for local and remote opportunities, too.
- Idealist helps you search for government and non-profit positions throughout the United States and around the world. Examples of the fields that you can work in include community development, children, and health and medicine. Remote work opportunities also appear on the website.
- Points of Light works to help people get involved with causes through projects and events in communities throughout the United States. An exciting feature of Points of Light is that it will help you to start your volunteer effort if you’re passionate about taking on an unmet need in your neighborhood.
- America’s Natural and Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal - Have you ever wanted to help preserve our natural and cultural resources? Here’s your chance to make sure that our nation’s parks, forests, and historic sites survive. Volunteers work at locations throughout the country, and some of the spots even offer temporary housing.
See the world as a volunteer. Are you eager to grab your passport and head out into the world? An exciting trend in volunteerism is combining international travel with a volunteer project. Can you imagine yourself spending a few weeks working with orphaned animals at the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education in South Africa? How about helping with shark conservation in Fiji? There is no end to the exciting experiences that are waiting for you in far away locations.
Keep in mind that there’s usually a cost related to overseas programs and airfare isn’t typically included in the program fees. On the positive side, many international organizations assist volunteers with fundraising efforts. With so many foreign travel/volunteer trips to choose from, it pays to do your research to find one that matches your passion and pocket.
To get started, check out Volunteer World, The GeoVisions Foundation, or Habitat for Humanity Global Village - terrific organizations that can make your dream of volunteering in a distant locale come true.
Wise people say that volunteering changes life for the better. Smart volunteers know that the secret to getting the most out of volunteering is by choosing a cause that is close to your heart. Think about the things that you care most about and look for ways to get involved.
Contents of this blog article are intended to provide you with a general understanding of the subject matter. However, it is not intended to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice and should not be relied on as such. Information may have changed since the publication date.