What are the Benefits of Volunteering? 10 Reasons to Volunteer

By Stacey Buttel and Amber Krosel

December 14, 2021

Stacey Buttel is a career facilitator for Goodwill Columbus in the Workforce Development Department, with over 25 years of experience in education, training, learning and development, and curriculum design. She is an instructor for Career Development Boot Camp and the Workforce Readiness Training Series. Amber Krosel is an editor for Indeed with five years of volunteer leadership experience in nonprofit animal welfare.

volunteers working at a community food event

If you’re looking to meet new people, interested in charitable causes or want to learn skills to advance your career, volunteering may be a good option. When you volunteer, you have the opportunity to make a true difference in the lives of others. In this article, we discuss 10 benefits of volunteering, including social, career and personal benefits, plus offer some tips for finding your next volunteer opportunity.

10 benefits of volunteering

Whether you’re the type of person who craves a lot of social interaction or whether you prefer as little as possible, volunteering has social, career and personal benefits. Here are the top 10:

1. Provides you with a sense of purpose

You may be able to find your purpose through volunteering and becoming part of something greater than yourself. For instance, if you’re retired, unexpectedly unemployed or have lost a loved one, helping others can give your life new meaning and keep you mentally stimulated.

2. Provides a sense of community

Volunteering can help you feel connected to those you are helping in the community. This experience may make you want to get involved with other aspects of your community, such as local politics or advocating for programs you believe are important.

3. Helps you meet new friends

Volunteering is a great way to meet new friends as well as strengthen existing connections with friends, family or coworkers. As a volunteer, you’ll typically interact with people from diverse backgrounds, which allows you to learn other perspectives.

When you choose an organization or cause to volunteer for, consider the people you’re volunteering alongside did as well. Sharing a common interest will help you build closer relationships with those around you.

Related: How To Volunteer: 13 Steps To Start Volunteering in Your Community

4. Increases your social skills

Volunteering gives you a chance to talk to new people and sharpen your social skills. By spending a lot of time working with others and using social skills, like active listening and relationship management, you’ll have the opportunity to develop your future personal and business relationships.

5. Improves self-esteem

Volunteering may boost your self-esteem and self-confidence. When you do something you feel is worthwhile and valuable for your community, it gives you a sense of accomplishment that may help you feel more fulfilled about your life and any future goals.

Read more: How To Build Self-Confidence in 7 Steps

6. Teaches you valuable skills

The training and hands-on experience you gain while volunteering can help you learn new skills as well as build upon ones you already have. For example, if you advocate and raise awareness or funding for a cause that interests you, you’ll gain valuable communication, public speaking, marketing and other hard and soft skills. You can then put these skills on your resume to show employers how you build relationships outside of work in addition to any personal interests that can set you apart from other candidates.

Related: How To Write a Volunteer Resume (With Sample and Tips)

7. Provides job prospects

Along with acquiring valuable skills and experience, you may also meet people while volunteering who can become your mentors or at least a part of your professional social network. If you choose to pursue a career in the field you’re volunteering in, the connections you make also may help increase your job prospects.

8. Brings fun into your life

Many people use volunteering as a way to pursue their hobbies while making a difference. For example, if you’re interested in the outdoors, you might volunteer at your community garden or help out at a children's summer camp. Volunteering for organizations or causes also may provide you with a renewed sense of creativity and motivation that carries over into your personal and professional life.

9. Can help you be happier

It often feels good to contribute to projects and organizations that mean something to you. These good feelings can help lessen the effects of stress, anger or anxiety in your life. Volunteering may provide you with the tools you need to be a happy and well-rounded individual. Building bonds and connections with people you volunteer with also may counteract any social isolation. Many volunteer opportunities also may involve physical labor to keep you active and reduce stress.

Related: Defining Your Values To Find Work Happiness

10. Gets you out of your comfort zone

Through volunteer work, you may overcome the personal challenges of leaving your comfort zone and doing something new with people you may not know. You may be faced with various problems to solve as a volunteer that require you to exercise critical thinking skills that aid your own personal development.

Related: FAQ: What Are Paid Volunteers and Why Should You Become One?

Where to find volunteer opportunities

You can find several organizations that fit your interests, either close to home or remotely. To get started, try searching for open volunteer roles with any of the following:

  • Local service organizations (e.g., Rotary Club or Lions Club)

  • Community arts groups (e.g., museums or theaters)

  • Youth organizations (e.g., after-school programs or sports groups)

  • National parks or conservation organizations

  • Political organizations

  • Libraries

  • Senior centers

  • Family shelters

  • Food pantries

  • Animal shelters and rescue organizations

  • Places of worship

Read more: How To Find a Volunteer Opportunity

How to choose the right volunteer opportunity

Volunteering allows you to impact and connect with your community, with opportunities that fit a variety of interests. Here are some tips for choosing the right volunteer opportunity for you:

  • Start with popular volunteer positions. Some of the most common volunteer opportunities that are publicized often include assisting at an animal shelter, planting trees at your local garden, beach or park clean-ups, talking or reading to the elderly and political campaigning. You can begin with any of these options and do a single volunteer day, then evaluate if it sparks your interest to continue pursuing.

  • Choose something you’re passionate about. Once you’ve narrowed down your interests to a specific type of volunteerism, try talking to a volunteer at the organization or testing it out by volunteering for a specific project to get a sense of if it’s the right fit for you. You’ll get to explore your interests, discover potential new ones and have fun doing so.

  • Work for an organization you believe in. After volunteering a couple of times for the same group, you might decide that this is both a cause and an organization you support. If the interest is appropriate but the organization isn’t, explore others that offer similar opportunities. For example, if you love volunteering to help animals, you might prefer to work with a small animal rescue that makes a different impact than a larger animal shelter that may have many more volunteers you might not get to know as well.

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