With busy lives and with health restrictions, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be more gratifying for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you find friends, connect with the local community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.
Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take an unnecessary amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.
Benefits of volunteering: 4 ways to feel healthier and happier.
- Volunteering connects you to others.
- Volunteering is good for your mind and body.
- Volunteering can advance your career.
- Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life.
Benefit 1: Volunteering connects you to others.
One of the more well-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need. And volunteering is a two-way street: It can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills.
Make new friends and contacts.
One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. It strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.
Increase your social and relationship skills
While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering allows you opportunities to practice and develop your social skills since you meet regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.
Volunteering as a family
Children watch everything you do. By giving back to the community, you’ll show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help other people and animals and enact change. It’s also a valuable way for you to get to know organizations in the community and find resources and activities for your children and family.
Benefit 2: Volunteering is good for your mind and body.
Volunteering provides many bonuses to both mental and physical health.
Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. The social contact aspect of helping and working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being. Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection to another person.
Volunteering combats depression. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against depression.
Volunteering makes you happy. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel.
Volunteering increases self-confidence. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
Volunteering provides a sense of purpose. Older adults, especially those who have retired or lost a spouse, can find new meaning and direction in their lives by helping others. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life.
Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, are less likely to develop high blood pressure, and have better-thinking skills. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease.
I have limited mobility—can I still volunteer?
People with disabilities or chronic health conditions can still benefit greatly from volunteering. In fact, research has shown that adults with disabilities or health conditions ranging from hearing and vision loss to heart disease, diabetes, or digestive disorders all show improvement after volunteering.
Whether due to a disability, a lack of transportation, or time constraints, many people choose to volunteer their time via phone or computer. In today’s digital age, many organizations need help with writing, graphic design, email, and other web-based tasks. Some organizations may require you to attend an initial training session or periodical meetings, while others can be conducted completely remotely. In any volunteer situation, make sure that you are getting enough social contact and that the organization is available to support you should you have questions.
Benefit 3: Volunteering can advance your career.
If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, project planning, task management, and organization. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.
Teaching you valuable job skills
Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. For example, you could become an experienced crisis counselor while volunteering for a women’s shelter or a knowledgeable art historian while donating your time as a museum docent.
Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you can raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills.
Gaining career experience
Volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. In some fields, you can volunteer directly at an organization that does the kind of work you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home.
Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organizations or internships that could benefit your career.
When it comes to volunteering, passion and positivity are the only requirements.
While learning new skills can be beneficial to many, it’s not a requirement for a fulfilling volunteer experience. Bear in mind that the most valuable assets you can bring to any volunteer effort are compassion, an open mind, a willingness to pitch in wherever needed, and a positive attitude.
Benefit 4: Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life.
Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and fulfilling can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.
Many people volunteer to make time for hobbies outside of work as well. For instance, if you have a desk job and long to spend time outdoors, you might consider volunteering to help plant a community garden, walk dogs for an animal shelter, or help out at a children’s camp.
How to find the right volunteer opportunity
There are numerous volunteer opportunities available. The key is to find a position that you would enjoy and are capable of doing. It’s also important to make sure that your commitment matches the organization’s needs. Ask yourself the following:
- Would you like to work with adults, children, animals, or remotely from home?
- Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
- Are you better behind the scenes, or do you prefer to take a more visible role?
- How much time are you willing to commit?
- What skills can you bring to a volunteer job?
- What objectives are essential to you?
Consider your goals and interests.
You will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteering experience if you first take some time to identify your goals and interests. Think about why you want to volunteer. What would you enjoy doing? The opportunities that match both your goals and your interests are most likely to be fun and fulfilling.
What are your volunteering goals?
To find a volunteer position that’s right for you, look for something that matches your personality, skills, and interests. Ask yourself if there is something specific you want to do or achieve as a volunteer.
For example, you might want to:
- Improve your neighborhood.
- Meet new people with different outlooks or experiences.
- Try something new.
- Do something rewarding in your spare time.
- See new places or experience a different way of living.
- Try a new type of work that you might want to pursue as a full-time job.
- Expand on your interests and hobbies.
Consider several volunteer possibilities.
Don’t limit yourself to just one organization or one specific type of job. Sometimes an opportunity looks great on paper, but the reality is quite different. Try to visit contrasting organizations and get a feel for what they are like and if you click with other staff and volunteers.
Where to find volunteer opportunities
- Community theaters, museums, and monuments.
- Libraries or senior centers.
- Service organizations such as Lions Clubs or Rotary Clubs.
- Local animal shelters, rescue organizations, or wildlife centers.
- Youth organizations, sports teams, and after-school programs.
- Historical restorations, national parks, and conservation organizations.
- Places of worship such as churches or synagogues.
- Online directories and other resources (see below).
How much time should you volunteer?
Volunteering doesn’t have to take over your life to be beneficial. Research shows that just two to three hours per week, or about 100 hours a year, can confer the most benefits—to both you and your chosen cause. The important thing is to volunteer only the amount of time that feels comfortable to you. Volunteering should feel like a fun and rewarding hobby, not another chore on your to-do list.
Getting the most out of volunteering
You’re donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. To make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit:
You want to make sure that the experience is right for your skills, your goals, and the time you want to spend. Sample questions for your volunteer coordinator might address your time commitment if there’s any training involved, who you will be working with, and what to do if you have questions during your experience.
Make sure you know what’s expected.
You should be comfortable with the organization and understand the time commitment. Consider starting small so that you don’t over-commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility to change your focus if needed.
The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and the organization. If you’re not enjoying yourself, ask yourself why. Is it the tasks you’re performing? The people you’re working with? Or are you uncomfortable simply because the situation is new and unfamiliar? Pinpointing what’s bothering you can help you decide how to proceed.
Article from healthguide.org, edited by Frank Carroll
Volunteering at the Nevada State Railroad Museum
Volunteering with the Friends of the Nevada Southern Railway (FNSR). You will be volunteering with the FNSR, a 501(c)(3) organization providing most of the operating, restoration, mechanical, and preservation crew for the museum. Our organization provides:
1, operating crew for the passenger trains, including car attendants, brakemen, and engineers. All crew begin as car attendants and move up through the ranks by learning and gaining skills, which are required by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which we must follow as an excursion railroad.
2. If you have mechanical skills, you can help with the maintenance of the various railroad equipment. This includes diesel engines, generators, railcar mechanical equipment, and more.
3. Docents, platform attendants, and similar opportunities let you work with the general public explaining the railroad, railroad history, and Boulder City history. We provide all of the material so that you will be knowledgeable about trains and local information for our riders and visitors.
4.Restoration and preservation. The museum equipment ranges in age from the late 1800s to the late twentieth century; consequently, we do a lot of restoration and preserving the equipment for the visitors to see what riding a train was likely about. Certain pieces are kept as original as possible; others modified to meet today’s railroad standards and safety compliance.
5. Office staff. Yes, we need people familiar with office work, writing, research, greeting the public, and assisting with other programs and events (Santa Train).
6. Grounds maintenance and beautification. It is cleaning up the trees and other vegetation, collecting the debris blown around by the winds.
7. Assisting with various programs for groups we work with, youth, seniors, families. Santa Express trains are popular during the holiday season. We have other programs throughout the year, such as StoryTime trains, birthday parties on the train, and other fun events throughout the year.
Go to our contacts page on this web site and emails. We will respond to give you more information, and the forms for you to fill out and return to us (in pdf format).