Why Volunteering?

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity.

During the current season of my life, I spend a lot of time on my two kids. On most afternoons or evenings they have activities for which I am the dedicated chauffeur. I don’t have much time left to pursue other interests besides reading and writing.

One thing I would like to do is to volunteer. I have volunteered to do fundraising for non-profit organizations, to help with library book sale in the community and with health & wellness related causes in my workplace.

I would like to do more when I have more time in the future.

Last week I went to a presentation on volunteering by Sue Moyer of the Greater Twin Cities United Way Caring Connection to learn more about volunteering. Sue Moyer shared the following interesting facts about volunteering.

According to University of Minnesota Psychologist Mark Snyder, PhD, who studies volunteerism, 45% of adults in US volunteer. The # 1 reason for volunteering is a matter of values. Concern for others, altruism – part of being human is helping others.

Dr. Snyder identified five primary motivations for volunteering.

(1) Values. Volunteering to satisfy personal values or humanitarian concerns.  For some people, it’s an expression of faith – desire to serve and give back.

(2) Community concern. Volunteering to help a particular community, such as a neighborhood or group, to which you feel attached.

(3) Esteem enhancement. Volunteering to feel better about oneself, or escape other pressures.

(4) Understanding. Volunteering to gain a better understanding of other people, cultures or places.

(5) Personal development. Volunteering to challenge yourself, meet new people and make new friends, or acquire new skills and further one’s career. Unemployed wants to work for a nonprofit to enhance her resume and gain experience. Volunteering can lead to full-time employment.

There are many benefits of volunteering. In addition to what’s mentioned above, volunteering can improve personal health and wellness.

Survey done by UnitedHealth Group and Volunteer Match in March 2010 (4582 respondents) shows:

  • 41 % of the people they surveyed had volunteered in the past year
  • 52% of those reported volunteering on a regular basis
  • 45% of the volunteers donated 50 hours or more a year (the mean was 120 hours)

Most popular volunteer activities reported in this study were:

  • Fundraising (26%)
  • Collections, preparation, distribution or serving of food (21%)
  • Tutoring or teaching (20%)
  • Provide professional or management assistance, including serving on a board or committee (18%)

The following are a few things to consider when you think about volunteering:

  • Why? What’s the motivation? – what do you want out of it? Meet new people, learn new skill, expression of faith, desire to give back?
  • What? What issues interest you? – What are you passionate about? hunger, homelessness, literacy, animal, children?
  • How? What are your skill sets? – technical, musical or learn a new skill
  • When? What’s your time frame? – how much time, time of day and day of week, ongoing or one-time commitment, etc. 
  • Where? What location? – close to home or work

How can you find volunteer opportunities?

Use United Way Caring Connection. It’s a searchable database with several parameters:

  • interest area
  • by agency
  • projects good for – groups, teens – find an activity for your family, kids or 55+
  • distance from your zip code

Remember, helping others can enrich your life and make your community a better place to live.