According to a statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization in 2015 (September 2014-September 2015). This rate, while astounding, is declining from previous years. While this may not seem like something of great concern, Volunteering is an incredibly valuable resource to community organizations; specifically non-profits, that have limited funding or monetary resources to keep their organizations operating. The reason for decline? While this remains a mystery, many may say it could be attributed to laziness, lack of interest in community, or just plain ignorance to the importance of this valuable resource. So why give back? The obvious answer- that it helps the organization with resources it may not have, and that it gives back to better your community…but I bet that you didn’t think about how it can help you.
Learn Something, Teach Someone
The thought of volunteering might leave you feeling hesitant; the perception that you’ll be doing something that you find less than enjoyable in your everyday life….never mind doing it as a means of giving back. Volunteering in your community doesn’t have to be something you don’t enjoy. Choose something that interests you, and make volunteering that much more exciting. Choose an organization you’re passionate about, and find a way that you can use your own skills and talents to apply them to an organization of your choice.
From my own personal experience working for a non-profit; Volunteering didn’t mean that being passionate about a particular topic (like animals) meant that you were committed to working with them, or cleaning up after them. If you liked talking to people…you were given a spot answering the phone; if you liked taking photos…we found a spot for you to use your talents in photography. Maybe the organization of your choice doesn’t list how you can help them doing something you love…but it can’t hurt to ask, right?
Take the opportunity to volunteer as a chance to teach someone something new…and bring a personal talent to the table! Learn something new from someone, and gain a new experience that you might never before have had the chance to do!
Make a Friend; Open New Doors!
Take advantage of the experience as an opportunity to meet new people, make a friend, or network with others within the organization. Volunteers are people from all walks of life, all types of organizations, and are composed of all sorts of community members. Maybe you’re new to the neighborhood; or maybe you’re looking for a job. Volunteering will open all sorts of doors and allow you to make an impression (good or bad) on the people surrounding you. Most importantly, keep an open mind…you never know who you’ll make a connection with.
Feel Better, Gain Perspective
In a 2013 study, 94% of people who volunteered over a 12-month period said that volunteering improved their mood, and 78% said that it lowered their stress levels. Volunteering is good for your health, gives you the ability to feel empathy, and helps boost your self-esteem. By making an impact, you will feel a sense of reliability, and feel a sense of belonging. When we give back to our community, we learn more about the challenges our community faces, and in turn have the ability to advocate for change. With a changed perspective, we’ll be more open minded, and learn that the little things in life aren’t ones worth stressing over.
Even though the heart of volunteering is about giving back, volunteering has lots of gifts to give us in return. Choosing to volunteer doesn’t have to mean that you give up a whole weekend or make a commitment you aren’t able to realistically keep-make small commitments that fit into your life but will make a large impact on the lives of others. Living a Beauty Full life means finding the beauty deep within us and living with the kindness of our hearts.