Kristen Howe is an active volunteer at her local animal shelter, an Edzoocator at her local zoo, her church, and at her local metro parks.
It's All About Community
The past two years had been rough for everyone in our ever-changing world. Police brutality and racial injustice, school and mass shootings, pandemic, flash floods, massive rain, forest and wildfires, hailstorms, and buildings collapsing.
After a tragedy happened, every time you watch the news, people come together when it hits close to home and supports each other. If you want to make a difference in your hometown to do your part, consider volunteering your time at a nonprofit organization or a worthy cause or two that’s close to your heart.
Volunteering is unpaid work and is all part of community service. You’ll be changing lives and making your community a better place when it brings people of all ages together in one place. If you spend at least one hour a day per week helping out, its many benefits pay off in the end.
How Volunteering is Beneficial to You
The late Naomi Judd sang the classic song “Loves Will Build a Bridge” with her daughter Wynonna in the '90s as the Judds. Former First Lady Hillary Clinton had once said, “It Takes a Village…." Check out these four reasons why being a volunteer is beneficial for you, your family, and your community:
1. Building New Ties
As a volunteer, you’ll be meeting new people by putting yourself forward and helping others out. New friends might come your way when you at least expect it. Everyone comes together as a family when it helps you increase your social and relationship skills and strengthen community ties in good times or bad.
A cleaner environment? Rescue birds and animals? Helping others? Want to right a wrong? These are some of the reasons why people chose to volunteer their time and service from a long list.
If you don’t have a job or a gap in your resume, community service fills that void. You’ll build connections by networking with people you meet, gain career experience, and might know some organizations that are hiring recruits. Who knows if it might lead you to your dream job? Teamwork, customer service, and communication skills are worthy soft skills employers are looking for.
2. Good for Body and Mind
When you volunteer, it increases your self-confidence, pride, satisfaction, and self-esteem. It also combats depression and keeps you in contact with others to ward off loneliness. It counteracts the effects of stress, anxiety, and anger. Doing good for others and your community provides a natural sense of accomplishment and gives you pride and identity.
And when you feel better about yourself, you’ll have a positive view of your life and future goals. It makes you feel happy when you’re being helpful to others, it delivers immense pleasure. For older volunteers, it helps you stay physically active and healthy by walking, helps you find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, and gives you low mortality than those who don’t.
It lessens chronic pain symptoms and reduces the risk of heart disease. It reduces stress and anxiety, builds a solid support system, and improves your mood, like when you work with pets or other animals.
3. Advances Career and Provides Work Experience
It expands your network to meet new people, helps you gain experience in a new field, and to volunteer directly at an organization you’re interested in. It exposes you to professional organizations or internships that could benefit your career. Teamwork, communication and customer service skills, problem-solving, organization, and task management, are all good practice skills to have for your resume.
There’s no full-time commitment if you want to try out a new career. As long as you don’t break any policy rules, you won’t get fired. Set your schedule to work there. After orientation and during onboarding, you receive extensive training in the role for the tasks at hand.
This way it helps build upon those soft skills you already have and use them to benefit the community. The only two key requirements for volunteering are passion and positivity.
A decade ago, when I first started my career search in office work, I volunteered for five years as an office clerk/physical therapist assistant in two hospitals and one outpatient rehab center. I printed and sorted papers, filed records, and assisted physical therapists with their equipment before and after their sessions.
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Though it helped me gain interviews in the office field, I didn’t land any jobs. But it was a great overall experience until I had burnout.
4. Brings Fun and Fulfillment with a Sense of Purpose
As a volunteer, you’ll explore new career interests and make time for hobbies. Volunteering is a fun and easy way to discover a relaxing, energizing escape from the everyday world. It provides you with a sense of purpose that’s meaningful and interesting to you. It offers renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that carries over into your personal and professional life.
If you’re retired or lost a spouse, a pet, or a loving family member, volunteering is a great way to fill that void of loneliness with a meaningful direction to help others. It’s a worthwhile distraction from being worried, keeps your mind stimulated, and provides zest to your life too.
Who Can Volunteer?
Anyone who wants to donate an hour or more of their time is good to volunteer, day or night, weekdays or weekends, or even on holidays. Young school-aged children can participate in after-school, during weekends, during summer, or holiday breaks, with adult supervision. This gives them a taste of what they want to be when they grow up in the future.
Pre-teens and teenagers can jump in at any time. This gives them a trial run to seek career exploration and some work experience and helps them decide on a major for college. College students can do it between classes, depending on if it fits in their schedule. It helps expand their horizons to land an on-campus or off-campus job and after graduation for future interviews with a prospective employer.
College graduates and working adults can work on the weekends or after hours. If they have a part-time job, they might have more flexibility than those who work full-time. It also provides them with a nice work-home balance. Those who work remotely at home or are retired would have more flexibility in their schedules to work once or twice a week, or for a couple of days.
If you have limited mobility, due to time, transportation issues or a disability, you can still volunteer by phone or computer. Or even by social media. If there’s a special fundraising event happening in your community, you can raise awareness by calling potential donors, emailing, printing out flyers, and so on. Ask if you can help with office or computer work. Spread the word via social networks.
For those who are limited by time constraints, consider these two alternatives for part-time volunteering in your community. Most organizations and non-profits would have drop-in volunteering and done-in-a-day options available to choose from on your application.
On certain days, when they need a lot of drop-in volunteer help for a specific project, you would be notified of the dates, times, and location via email. Whether alone or working with a big group for a charity cause, done-in-a-day volunteering is perfect for you. Work for one time only for a couple hours, and you’re done.
Either way, these volunteering alternatives looks well on your resume for future job prospects.
Where Do I Find Them?
The best place to find volunteer opportunities is right in your community. Start downtown and the closest cities to your town. Visit those places in person and ask about volunteer opportunities. If they have a website and a social media account, scroll down to find the volunteer link at the top or bottom of the screen.
Check your local newspapers to see if anything’s advertised for both printed and digital editions. If there’s a community board available in your neighborhood, stop by to see if there’s anything posted for volunteer help and give them a call.
There are great websites to help you find the perfect match in your area. Sites like Volunteermatch, Idealist, National and Community Service, American Red Cross, Volunteer, and the U.S. Peace Corps. For example, Volunteermatch.org, allows you to filter your choices from location, up to 10 causes and skills, search by keyword in organizations or find volunteer opportunities.
Want to be close to home or at another location? Select from mileage, town, city, state, and metro area. Though there are many volunteering opportunities available for adults, kids, teens, groups, and people who are 55+ can also participate by getting involved and selecting from those filtered options too.
Choose Your Causes
There are many causes you might be interested in volunteering for. You can pick one or what your heart desires to take action. Courtesy of Volunteermatch, this is a list of causes to select from at the site. If you pick more than one cause, sometimes they intersect with the same non-profit organizations or charities as well.
- Advocacy and Human Rights
- Arts and Culture
- Board Development
- Children and Youth
- Computers and Technology
- Crisis Support
- Disaster Relief
- Education and Literary
- Emergency and Safety
- Health and Medicine
- Homeless and Housing
- Immigrants and Refugees
- Justice and Legal
- Media and Broadcasting
- People with Disabilities
- Race and Ethnicity
- Sports and Recreation
- Veterans and Military Families
Show Your Skill Set
Many non-profit organizations and charities are looking for passionate and positive volunteers to utilize their skills and put them into good use later on. Like hunting for a job to see if it’s a perfect match or a good fit, they needed a good combo of these hard and soft skills to benefit their cause.
Do you have what it takes? If so, take a look at this list of worthy skills to find your match down below and check them off. If you select the skill, it breaks it down into different categories.
- Administrative and Clerical
- Animals and Environment
- Business and Management
- Children and Family
- Computers & IT
- Disaster Relief
- Education & Literacy
- Food Service & Events
- For Profit and Nonprofit Development
- Healthcare & Social Services
- Hobbies and Crafts
- Housing and Facilities
- IT Infrastructure & Software
- Interactive & Web Development
- Language & Culture
- Legal and Advocacy
- Logistics, Supply Chain, & Transportation
- Marketing and Communications
- Performing Arts
- Sports and Recreation
- Strategy Development and Business Planning
Ready, Set, Apply!
The world would be a better place if we all pitched in and supported our local communities by volunteering, at least once a week, and in any way we could for a good cause.
Through good times and bad, we would all benefit from helping each other out, meeting new people, learning new skills, and experiencing the benefit through community service that builds a supportive family in your town or neighboring cities.
When it comes to volunteering, there are many pros and very few cons. Interested? Find your causes to use your skills, sign up, and apply to your local communities today!
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Kristen Howe