10 Benefits of Volunteering at a NonProfit
There is nothing quite as humbling and rewarding as seeing your hard work transform the lives of many. One way to accomplish this is by volunteering at non-profit organizations in your local community. By bringing volunteerism and activism to a local level, you can see the type of impact, positive effect and change your time is providing.
Volunteering in your local community is not the same feeling you get from simply donating money to a cause. Monetary donations allow nonprofits to continue to provide their services; however, getting involved with these organizations directly facilitates a different type of value. Seeing the difference you are making firsthand by working with these non-profits that dedicate their lives to the lives of others is something that cannot be put into words.
Once you start getting involved with volunteer work non-profits, it will likely become a lifelong commitment. The experience is truly unparalleled. With thousands of cause-driven organizations worldwide, there is an opportunity to choose a non-profit that aligns with your passions and interests, which makes the experience even more rewarding.
While you are making a difference in the lives of many through volunteering, there are numerous personal benefits to working with nonprofits. The volunteering experience you gain can transform your future in the best way possible and create an entirely new outlook on life. So while the work you are doing is, first and foremost, helping the people involved in the organization, you will also feel a personal reward and life satisfaction. If you think this could be something that would bring more positivity and happiness into your life, learn more about the personal and professional benefits of volunteering at a non-profit organization below.
Expand Your Personal and Professional Network
Volunteering with cause-driven organizations allows you to meet like-minded new people. Surrounding yourself with other people who share similar passions is a great way to make new friends and get connected professionally. This is particularly beneficial if you volunteer at the same non-profit continually. Whether this is once a week or once a month, building a lasting bond with these organizations provides the most benefit to networking. By expanding your experience beyond a few volunteer sessions, you can grow these relationships into a meaningful connection and foster them for many years to come, even after you stop volunteering.
Also, volunteering at non-profits when you are new to an area is a great way to learn more about the local community, strengthen your support network, and be exposed to new people with similar interests, neighborhood resources, and potential job opportunities. Since the people you are volunteering with share similar values, they likely have connections that you could benefit from. Whether this is a new job or volunteer opportunity, this is the chance to gain an incredible professional networking resource.
Learn New Skills
Volunteering for nonprofit organizations can teach you a lot about yourself. It can also help you acquire new skills and improve existing ones. Specifically, volunteering teaches you a lot about compassion, empathy, and working with others. It is essential that when you work with non-profit organizations, you replace any feelings of pity or guilt with empathy. Rather than feeling sorry for the people that you are helping, you should focus on being able to understand their position and be empathetic towards their situation. Learning empathy is an incredible life skill to have, benefiting other work and personal relationships.
Another transferable skill that comes out of volunteering is working well with other people. In the volunteer world, you will be continually meeting new faces and learning more about different people’s lives. This regular social interaction will teach you how to form personal and genuine connections with individuals more quickly. Taking on a new volunteering opportunity improves conversation skills for those who are more reserved and teaches you how to handle new situations and social interaction experiences.
Build Your Resume
Having volunteer service on your resume provides you professional benefits and can help you stand out as a potential job candidate. Since job hunting can be challenging, time-consuming, and competitive, volunteering gives you a distinct advantage over other candidates. Volunteering consistently at an organization shows employers your commitment to not only giving back to the local community but also demonstrates consistency and drive. It provides insight into your personality and makes you a desirable person with which to work.
In a 2013 survey conducted by Idealist Careers, researchers found that 76% of hiring managers found volunteer experience important. The researchers also found that almost 65% of hiring managers said that volunteer experience is at least “somewhat important” when selecting candidates. So while volunteering alone won’t land you your next job interview, it can increase your chances of being selected. Volunteer leadership is also an important path to look into and can be something that boosts your resume.
Understand the Organization Better
Another benefit that comes from volunteering in the non-profit sector is your ability to fully understand the work and impact the organization has on the community. It allows you to see firsthand the type of commitment and responsibility that goes into running a non-profit organization. From the non-profit’s culture to the projects they are looking to pursue, there is plenty to learn.
People that work with a non-profit organization have tremendous dedication. These people have inspiring stories to share and a plethora of knowledge in their field. There is a lot to learn from these individuals, and it could inspire a new career path or simply help you gain more respect for the duties these people take on.
Transform Your Volunteering Opportunity into a Job
Going hand-in-hand with understanding the organization better, volunteering at a non-profit could lead to a new job opportunity. By volunteering for an organization before attempting to work within the space, you will have a better understanding of the job roles and the type of commitment that is required. Also, non-profit employers value candidates who take the time to get involved with the non-profit before the thought of being paid for their time and dedication.
Because you are in a volunteer role, you have the opportunity to experiment with different positions and causes. Unlike a traditional job, volunteering comes with more flexibility. You can volunteer at various cause-driven non-profits to figure out where you could be of most value and where you share similar interests. This allows you to determine where your passions and skills truly lie which helps when looking to pursue a more permanent role.
See the Organization’s Impact Firsthand
As mentioned earlier, getting involved within your community allows you to see the impact, social benefit, and change with your own eyes. This makes your volunteer work much more unique because you can directly see how the hours you are dedicating are making a real difference. It also creates a stronger sense of belonging within your neighborhood because you are demonstrating that you are looking out for one another.
A 2011 study found that volunteering locally has an incredible social impact on local communities. Volunteerism has been shown to strengthen social connections, build strong, safe, and cohesive communities, enhance civic engagement, and provide public goods and services that the government does not provide. Given that gaining government funding is a long and exhausting process, volunteering in your local community can create faster, proactive, and more direct change.
Improve Your Mood
There is no doubt that you’ll automatically feel happier after volunteering. Giving back to others out of the goodness of your heart delivers an extraordinary feeling. In fact, volunteering has been shown to lower rates of depression and improve your mental health because it gives individuals a sense of meaning and purpose.
Additionally, volunteerism has led to a concept known as the “Happiness Effect.” This was a concept developed by researchers at the London School of Economics who found that helping others kindles an increased amount of happiness. The study found that compared to those who never volunteered the odds of being “very happy” rose 7% among those who volunteered monthly and 12% for people who volunteered every two to four weeks. It becomes apparent that the more volunteer time you commit to, the happier you’ll likely be.
Set an Example
If you have children or peers that are younger than you, volunteering sets an excellent example. Volunteering teaches lessons of humility and gratitude; these are important behaviors to instill at a young age. Families that volunteer together can forge greater bonds and bring their relationships much closer. Even if you don’t have children, simply setting an example for your peers can be just as valuable. Volunteering together creates a chain reaction of more people getting involved in the type of work these nonprofits are doing and spreads awareness of their services and the necessity of participation. In need of a few community service ideas for kids? We’ve compiled 30 different ways for the whole family to get involved.
Your children are truly the future. By setting an example of the value and importance of volunteerism, you are laying the path and foundation for future community activism and service. Demonstrating how important an experience like volunteering will lead to more people getting involved, which is the ultimate goal of non-profit organizations.
Gain a Better Sense of Purpose
When you start to get older, you experience a higher risk of isolation and loneliness. Volunteering is the perfect outlet for older adults who have recently retired or have a significant amount of time on their hand. Dedicating time and commitment to a cause increases your sense of worth and purpose. Knowing that your work is contributing to a forward-moving organization combats feelings of low self-worth.
In addition, volunteering has been shown to improve people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other mental illnesses. Volunteering provides an escape from these mental conditions and produces feelings of positivity, mental wellness, and increased self-worth. No matter who you are or what you are dealing with personally, there are plenty of ways that you can give your life new meaning by helping other people and making a positive impact in your community.
Stay Physically Healthy
Not only does volunteering supply feelings of life satisfaction and happiness, but it also helps keep you physically healthy. By counteracting the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety, your body is both mentally and physically more sound. For example, volunteering has been seen to provide a distraction from everyday life, which reduces your stress level. Also, making a real difference in your community reduces anger, and building connections with others reduces anxiety.
Studies have shown that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not get involved in their community. This is because volunteering at an older age causes these individuals to walk more, which keeps them physically active and not stagnant. Older volunteers find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, mental wellness, and have better-thinking skills. This, in turn, leads these individuals to be less likely to develop higher blood pressure, lessens symptoms of chronic pain, and reduces the risk for heart disease.
Start Volunteering Now
The benefits of volunteering for a non-profit organization are not limited to the ten listed above. As mentioned earlier, this is not an experience that can truly be put into words. Your time spent volunteering is going to have so many personal benefits and has been seen to resonate with each person differently. These were just a few reasons why volunteering at a non-profit helps not only the people involved but you, as well. Turn to your local community and find a volunteer program to figure out where you can start making a positive impact.
Not sure where to start? Check out the different volunteer programs that we have in place year-round. Whether you’re looking for a full-time role or more event-based volunteering opportunities to work with children, there is always a need for an extra set of helping hands. Give it a shot and see if volunteering for a local non-profit is the one thing missing from your life.
Corina Casco, Chief Program OfficerCorina Casco is the Chief Program Officer at Children’s Bureau. She has a 15-year-career in the child welfare arena and since 2012, has been an adjunct guest lecturer at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs where she teaches several courses to MSW graduate students. Corina holds a B.A. in political science and a B.A. in sociology from the University of California, Irvine and a Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California.