Some times when we think of philanthropy, our minds immediately jump to big fundraising dinners or the cutting of ribbons at unveiling ceremonies. Big donations. Big commitments. However, making a difference in your community doesn’t always mean writing a check; instead it can be fulfilling our roles as neighbors through the donation of our time and compassion.
It makes sense that volunteering helps those around us through of giving of time and assistance, but why is it beneficial for us as individuals, too? Globally recognized community empowerment group United Way gives a list of volunteering benefits such as developing new skills, building your own self-esteem, and allowing you to meet new people who share your passion to help others. Your choice to give your time and expertise also makes it more likely that your children will volunteer.
Volunteering also helps to make you a more rounded employee, teacher, friend, and family member. How you spend your free time shows the people in your life that you maintain a good work-life balance and that you are passionate about something which isn’t self-serving. Sharing your volunteer experience with others helps to paint a picture of who you are.
We also know that engaging with those in need in our community is proven to increase happiness and overall wellbeing in volunteers. “People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness,” says Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota. “All of these things go up as their feelings of social connectedness goes up, which in reality, it does. It also improves their health and even their longevity.” By staying consistent and dedicated to your community, you can actually improve your own life in the process.
Volunteering always has given me a sense of connectedness and accomplishment with my neighbors, and I hope you’d consider giving a few hours a week to a cause you’re passionate about, too. Do it for you, do it for your neighbor, and I know you’ll both be happy you did.
If you’ve never volunteered and need help getting started, check out the following list of places that could always use a helping hand: