Some years ago, I got the notion that volunteering was a cool thing to do. And as I continued to volunteer, I found out that volunteering has a lot of benefits.
The first perk is getting to know new people. There are so many interesting people in the world, why not get to know a few of them through a volunteer project, walk, event or a community organization?
My husband and I started volunteering through our church and are glad we did. Through church activities, we got to know some really wonderful people and learned new things. Our volunteer connections at church eventually led us to an overseas trip together with other volunteers who had become friends. Over time, we expanded our volunteerism outside of our church.
In addition to new friendships, volunteering can help you develop connections. Maybe you need someone to do work at your home, help you plan a special event or guide you through travel plans but you don’t know who could help you. Through your volunteer experiences in meeting new people, you may meet someone who knows someone who knows a guy who can … you get the picture. And referrals are a great way to get the work you need done.
Besides new friends and connections, another perk of volunteering is learning something new. Maybe you only want to know more about something such as gardening, cycling, cooking, Tai Chi, whatever. Have fun!
Other volunteer experiences may give you an opportunity to bone up your skill set that could help with a career change. Some of my volunteer experiences helped me hone marketable software computer skills. Plus, volunteerism looks good on your resume.
You wouldn’t probably think of this one, but numerous sources site confidence building as a benefit of volunteering. If you think of it, every time you learn to do something new, don’t you feel good about yourself?
If you are really good at something, volunteer to teach others. This doesn’t necessarily mean standing in front of a classroom setting — although it could mean that. Teaching can take place in many settings, such as in a circle of chairs or around a table and having a conversation. It could be working with someone side-by-side on a project, like framing a house, laying sod or working on repairing a bike. It could be a thrill for you to see others bloom from something you shared. Plus, if you’re shy about your communication abilities, teaching what you know to others could boost your confidence while improving your speaking skills in front of others.
Invite your family to join you. Bring your older children into your volunteering interests, even if they are adults. What a great way to teach them about giving and generosity of spirit.
Never volunteered before? Nervous about it becoming a long-term gig? Trends have changed. Many organizations have redesigned their volunteer needs to fit today’s lifestyle and interests by offering short-term projects. Volunteering can be anything from a one-time event — like working the registration table at a walk-a-thon — to a short-term project — such as being an adult counselor at a kid’s camp — to a longer gig — like serving on a board for a nonprofit.
New to volunteering? Try a one-time volunteer project. Bring a friend with you. Then try different things. Spread your wings, share your gifts and build your confidence. And all the while, you’ll enrich yourself while enriching your community.