The world has many urgent issues — food insecurity, wars and conflicts, infectious disease, water shortages, extreme poverty. And in the age of COVID-19, the number of people who need a helping hand has only increased.
Clearly, volunteering matters. But the benefits go far beyond altruism. A growing body of research shows that it provides many benefits, some of which are surprising. Here are 11 of them:
- The power to change lives. Whether you’re collecting supplies for a food bank to feed malnourished children, building a home for a family or fostering or adopting an abandoned or abused pet, you’re making a tangible change in a person’s (or animal’s) life. Even better, you’re also giving them hope.
- The ability to involve more people. When you volunteer, you’re raising awareness for an organization and its cause. And you often mention your service to friends and family — perhaps even without noticing you’re doing it. You might even post something about it on your social media platforms, which spreads the word. That can encourage more people to get involved.
- A physical feeling of satisfaction. There’s scientific evidence that volunteering positively affects your body. Studies show that when people donate to charity, either financially or through volunteering, they trigger the mesolimbic system — the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward. The brain releases feel-good chemicals, spurring you to perform more kind acts. Psychologists call it “helper’s high.”
- New friends and stronger friendships. When you help others, you give off positive vibes, which can rub off on peers and improve your friendships, creating strong, lasting bonds. For instance, if you’re volunteering to mentor children, chances are good you’ll meet people who care about young children. Volunteering is an excellent way to find your “tribe.”
- Connection and confidence. Silence the inner voice that’s saying you’re not enough! People who volunteer have been found to have higher self-esteem and overall well-being. Experts explain that the more connection you feel, the higher your self-esteem.
- Social and networking skills. Volunteering is a social activity — so it can build up your list of important contacts. For example, the people you volunteer with are great candidates for recommendation letters. After all, these are the people who have seen you interact with others and handle new challenges.
- A readiness to take on the world. People who participate in volunteer work feel rewarded, more fulfilled. Volunteers report that helping others enriches their sense of purpose and empowers them.
- Value to schools and employers. Volunteer experience can set you apart from other applicants for jobs and colleges. Your volunteer experience tells them that you are ambitious, care about your community and are willing to put in the work that brings change.
- A chance to pay it forward. Kindness is contagious. Simply seeing someone help another person gives us a good feeling. And that inspires us to do something altruistic ourselves.
- A sense that you have more time. Volunteering won’t literally give you more than 24 hours in a day. But it makes those hours seem more fulfilling. In fact, research shows that those who volunteer their time feel like they have more time.
- Feelings of gratitude. Helping others is a wonderful way to gain perspective on your own situation, and that can make you more appreciative of what you have.
Are you ready to benefit from volunteering?