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8 Ways Volunteering Helps Volunteers

Posted in Articles

This is a guest post by Karl E. Burgher.

Typically when we think of volunteering we think of doing for others. This altruism usually dominates the discussion: giving back, serving, making a contribution outside of ourselves. We tell volunteers, “That is nice” and “Way to go” as we give back to those in need.

What we might not know and what we all need to know is that volunteering provides the volunteer with many benefits that help us to help ourselves. This happens in many direct, and sometimes not so direct, ways. Volunteering discusses the following 8 ways volunteering can help you help yourself.



1. Helps you understand yourself and others. Volunteering provides you with opportunities to discover what really motivates you and how to work with different personalities. And, often it exposes you to new cultures and other ways of thinking.


2. Provides for learning. It can enhance careers, giving experience to those who may not be able to get it elsewhere. Volunteering allows you to hone talents and new skills, develop organizational abilities, and acquire management experience.  It also grants you insight into how to create great teams, seek external funding, and celebrate accomplishments.


3. Staves off loneliness. It provides a place for the recently retired to find a new group of friends and acquaintances (see chapter 8, “Encore Volunteering”). Volunteering provides us with a purpose and a release for our innate need to help others. Additionally, encore volunteers bring much-needed experience and wisdom to organizations.


4. Reduces anxiety. We live in an “age of anxiety.” We often think—excessively. We worry about the future, fret over the past, and miss the present. Volunteering, being altruistic, helps us help ourselves and others in the present. If we choose our volunteering activities carefully, if we examine ourselves pointedly, perhaps we can provide ourselves with some deserved relief.


5. Improves physical health. Being in groups, being accepted by others, and having purpose helps us think more clearly and even saves us money on doctor’s visits and medications. Service to others has medicinal value—purpose and acceptance are just plain good for one’s health.


6. Gives us a means to produce what we want rather than what we have to.  Given that so many of us do not get to choose how we put food on the table or shelter over our heads, a good cause can give us relief. The paid economy can be vicious. The unpaid economy can provide us with many positive choices and experiences, and a world of opportunity. We can feel empowered as we determine how we will volunteer and give of ourselves and our time.


7. Fosters interaction among generations. Volunteer organizations are made up of millennials, baby boomers, and everyone in between. Although expectations, goals, interests, and habits vary widely across these generations, working together for a common cause brings them together and develops mutual appreciation and understanding.


8. Sharpens our knowledge of organizations and business.  Large and small, volunteer organizations have all of the same challenges that profit-oriented and government organizations have. As volunteers, we often get to see things in our volunteer organizations that would not be shared with us in the paid work world.


In short, volunteering is good for everyone, not just those who are served. Volunteering helps the individual and as individuals are helped in one area it translates into all areas that person engages with. It’s all connected. So do yourself a favor, learn, grow, and improve your health—get out and volunteer!


Read Volunteeering to learn more about the many things that volunteering can do for you.