Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
7 Reasons To Volunteer & How To Choose Your Cause
Published Aug 5th, 2020 & updated on May 22nd, 2021
You pass a colourful booth in the lobby of your office building, at the mall or in the hallway at school. They’re looking for volunteers for a local shelter. Your heart is drawn to the cause immediately. The people are smiling and laughing – they look like they’re having a great time. You think about the reasons to volunteer… and the reasons why you can’t.
You want to walk over, but you just can’t. How can I possibly manage a volunteer position on top of my school, work, family, and (already lacking) social life? There’s no way. You put your head down and keep walking, but the image of the booth stays in your mind for the rest of the afternoon.
We know exactly how you feel because we’ve been there too.
The truth is, volunteering may seem like a huge commitment, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t get us wrong, if you have the time to put in, you can. But you don’t need to put in 15 hours a week if that’s not realistic for you.
With the right fit, volunteering for as little as a few hours per week/month can result in tangible benefits that last a lifetime. Pretty good trade-off if you ask us!
We know you’re intrigued… keep reading to hear about all the benefits of volunteering and how you can start today!
7 Reasons To Volunteer Your Time
That is, 7 reasons to volunteer besides the very obvious one of making a significant impact in your community! Turns out when you volunteer, you help yourself as much as you’re helping the people around you. How??, you ask? Keep reading!
1. Connect With Others
Is it just us, or is meeting new people the hardest thing in the world?? One of the best things about volunteering is that it brings people together who share common interests, which makes it so much easier to build friendships. You’ll skip the awkward getting-to-know-you stage because you’ll already know their interests and values. Insta-friends! (not Instagram friends, instant friends)
Volunteering is especially helpful if you’ve recently moved to a new area or new city. You’ll get acquainted with members of the community all while helping your new community thrive. Sounds like a win-win!
2. Improve Your Physical Health
Besides just getting out of the house, volunteering has loads of other benefits for physical health. Research has shown that people who volunteer are less stressed, less likely to develop high blood pressure, and have fewer symptoms of chronic pain. If that’s not enough, there is also evidence of a lower mortality rate in those who volunteer. Get out there, people!
3. Improve Your Mental Health
At DiveThru, we’re all about promoting mental wellbeing, and volunteering is just one more strategy to add to the list. Research shows that the act of giving back can counteract stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. There is also evidence that volunteering makes you happier over time, whether you start out with high levels of wellbeing or not.
Volunteering can help increase your self-confidence too, which leads to a sense of accomplishment and pride. Not to mention, all the benefits that come with social interaction and connecting with others in a meaningful way.
4. Learn New Skills
It’s never a bad idea to learn something new. What’s that they say? Learn something new every day? We’re not saying you have to volunteer every day, but even once a week/month is a sure-fire way to pick up some new life skills.
If you’re thinking about making a career change, volunteering is also a great way to get your foot in the door and learn the basics. After a couple months, you’ll have a solid knowledge of the topic, plus some tangible experience to add to your resume. Can you say double yay?
Honestly, we were already sold in the first 3 reasons to volunteer but let’s see what else there is.
5. Practice Your Existing Skills
If you’re looking for a little more meaning beyond your 9-5 job, consider using your skills in a volunteer role. You’ll be able to put your professional skills to good use in a role that makes a difference in your community.
Similar to how volunteering can be used to switch your career, it can also be used to advance your career. Putting in extra time shows your dedication to your profession or organization and can be used to bolster your resume for your dream job.
6. Find Your Purpose
Giving back to your community creates a sense of belonging and purpose in your work. You’ll feel like your work or organization is truly making a difference in the lives of others, which is a dang good feeling if you ask us. You’ll find out pretty quickly that, although you’re technically there to help others, you end up helping yourself just as much.
7. Have Fun
Just to recap: you get to do something you love with new friends who also share the same passions. What could be more fun?
4 Journaling Prompts To Help You Choose A Cause
Sure, volunteering is good no matter where you do it, but it will be more impactful if it’s with an organization that you’re passionate about — if the cause means something to you. In order to find the perfect fit, take some time, sit down with your journal, and try to answer these prompts:
What do you hope to get out of the experience?
Do you hope to meet new people, make a difference, advance your career, or simply find a way to spend free time? There’s no right or wrong answer. And the answer can easily be all of the above.
Write down your hobbies, interests, passions, and values.
You’re going to want to spend your time doing things you care about. Having a tangible list of interests will help you find the best fit with an organization that shares your values.
Think about experiences that have shaped you.
Write about how fortunate you were to have those experiences and how different your life would be without them. Now explore how you could facilitate those same experiences in others?
What type of environment do you need to succeed?
Get into the specifics. Do you prefer working alone or with others? How much time can you realistically commit to the position? Sorting out these logistics will help you narrow down your options and find the perfect fit!
Once you have a better idea of what you’re looking for and what you need, it’ll be easier to find a volunteer opportunity that works for you! Check out these sites to find more information on opportunities in your area or involving your skillset:
Just type in your location and VolunteerMatch will provide a list of opportunities separated into a variety of categories (e.g. Animals, Health & Medicine, Seniors, etc.).
Catchafire matches volunteers with nonprofit organizations looking for help on specific projects. Projects range from marketing to animation creation to finance. To make it even easier, you can search by cause, skill, or time commitment.
Cool Note: In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are lots of exciting volunteer opportunities emerging for remote work! Reach out and see how you can help, even from the comfort of your own home.
There’s One More Step After You Volunteer…
You did it! You volunteered. YAY. First of all, congrats!!!
Now that your volunteer work is done for the day, we want you to take it a step further.
As you know, at DiveThru, we’re all about self-awareness in your approach to mental wellbeing. So, in the spirit of self-awareness, we want you to reflect on what your volunteering experience meant to you. This tiny moment of reflection will significantly enrich your experience as a whole.
Take out your journal and put some time aside to process the emotions you’re feeling. They could range from happiness to frustration to complete relief at finally finding a sense of purpose.
And remember, any emotion you’re feeling is ok. Judgement-free zone.
If you’re struggling to find a place to start, we’ve got you. Just ask yourself these 3 simple questions:
What am I feeling right now?
How do I feel about my volunteering experience today?
What’s stressing me out about my volunteering experience today?
You can also get started on our 6 Day Check-In Challenge by downloading the DiveThru app for free today!!
Volunteering is at the heart of our communities and is a driving force for positive change worldwide. It is a great way to make a difference in the lives of others, plus you’ll discover some pretty amazing benefits in your own life while you’re at it!
Those are just a few reasons to volunteer, but you’ll also have the opportunity to find your place, your people, and your purpose.