While I’ve spoken about volunteering before, it’s a topic that bears repeating.
Volunteering, for me, has been one of the most rewarding ways to spend my time, and this upcoming week (starting tomorrow) is National Volunteer Week. This year the theme is “Celebrate Service.”
Established in April 1974, President Richard Nixon signed an executive order dedicating the week to those who give their time to charity. Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities.† Each year it’s grown in scope and notoriety due to the support of sitting presidents, governments and other elected officials.
3 Other interesting stats from last year:
Women have been more likely to volunteer (28.3%) vs. Men (22.0%)*
35-44 year olds were the most likely to volunteer (29.8%). Teens aged 16-19 years old come in 2nd place, having volunteered at a rate of 26.1%*
Married couples volunteered at 30.2% in 2014 versus singles who attained 20.2%*
Have You Ever Volunteered For Something?
In the past I only volunteered periodically, but I found organizations that I am truly moved by to support and offer my time whenever possible. (I currently help several local food pantries, donate my time and guidance to my college alumni chapter and undergrads, and I volunteer for events at my local PBS station.) I should also share that I believe that your TIME IS JUST AS VALUABLE AS A MONETARY DONATION.
If you recall my #unselfie promise that I posted here, I’d pledged 25 hours over the next 6 months (December – May). To date I’ve volunteered for 17.5 hours and have eight (8) additional volunteer hours planned for April alone. If all goes as I hope, I will be over my goal by half an hour with a half a month to go! I’m also on the look out for at least one organization where I can donate my professional skills and have been watching Catchafire for a match (see below for more info).
As an added benefit, volunteering has made me reflect and be more appreciative of where I am and what I’ve going for me in my life.
It’s a great way to further a cause that you believe in. You can meet interesting people who share your passion, and more importantly, you’ll be making a difference in your community, and in the world and as a human being. From a professional perspective, volunteering can provide you with hands-on experience and/or a new skill in an industry that you are considering for your career. It can also help you find and develop valuable networking contacts, people you may not have had the opportunity to meet in your everyday life. In fact companies tend to value and hire candidates who volunteer. They find them more well-rounded and appreciate that they are willing to give back to their communities.
Need another reason? Volunteering has been shown to boost self-confidence and a sense of worth. This has been proved time and time again. Check the Internet, you’ll find a ton of articles.
Volunteering is a Win Win, but it may not be glamorous
I should warn you before you jump in with both feet and visions of giant exposure and rubbing elbows with the who’s who. Not all volunteer activities are necessarily “fun” or “exciting,” (e.g., cleaning a warehouse, packing boxes, stuffing envelopes, sorting inventory etc. ) but if you understand how the purpose of what you are doing is furthering the organization, and more importantly, you believe in the organization and its mission, I’ve found that it’s well worth it. Plus someone needs to do these tasks, why not you while gaining a feeling of accomplishment.
Need Ideas On How You Can Get Started?
- Food Pantries – There are both local and regional food pantries out there. You can simply start out by making a donation (food, paper goods, health/beauty products) while you learn more;
- Do You Listen to NPR or Watch/Listen to your local PBS station? – Local PBS stations (radio and TV) always need help, and especially love their fans;
- The Arts – Do you go to the theatre or ballet? Many of these organizations are non-profit or have an accompanying non-profit foundation. You can help by staffing events or potentially with their administrative needs, staffing an event, or helping with a fundraising event;
- United Way – This is a great national organization that helps a variety of local non-profits and foundations that focus on children and families, many who might live in your own community;
- Volunteer Match – Here’s another great resource that I found during my research. It includes a blog about volunteering, a library of organizations where you can get involved (including a system that’s geared towards matching your interests and location). There’s also an option to add your charity/non-profit to their list/library;
- Catchafire – If you’re in the working world (even if not currently working) this is a great resource. Catchafire can identify a non-profit or company that needs some pro-bono help that matches your professional expertise. I especially enjoyed their recent blog post that counters all of the reasons people feel they “can’t” give back.