This guest post was written by Nicole Staudinger, a Brazen Careerist working in non-profit who is fascinated with sharing stories to create positive change.
It may seem silly- “Why are you working for free?” my friends despair. Yet somehow, I have volunteered for more than ten different organizations in the past three years, and had an amazing time doing it. From gigantic national orgs with tons of funding to tiny little nonprofits with only three employees, I’ve donated my time to plant vegetables, tutor teenagers, transcribe oral histories, walk dogs, and more.
Trust me, there are more than ten reasons you should volunteer, but here are my personal favorites:
10. The Warm Fuzzies.
Simply put, volunteering makes you smile. No matter how busy and stressful and caught up in your own life you may be, donating your time to a worthy cause will make you feel GOOD.
9. It feeds your passion.
Regardless of where your interest lies, there is sure to be an organization out there that needs YOU to contribute your skills and do something you love. From sharing your computer talents with technology nonprofits to just helping to build a playground, from promoting your inner artist by painting murals on old buildings to utilizing your green thumb in a community garden, there is a position for you out there. I highly recommend using Idealist.org’s search feature, which allows you to customize your volunteer opportunity search by keyword and location.
8. It is totally flexible to your needs.
What with the economy in the state that it is, some of you have lots of time on your hands, while others are scrambling to harness the craziness that is your schedule. Fortunately, there are positions for every level of time availability. You can choose a time commitment from a one-time-only event, to several a couple times a moth, to several hours a week. Another great feature of Idealist.org is that you can sign up for daily alerts about any volunteer events or opportunities posted each day in your current city.
7. Speaking of the economy- volunteering can get you a job.
I am living proof; I volunteered for three months at an environmental health clinic, donating my social media savvy, before being hired on as their Communications Specialist. I now get paid to do what I love. Volunteering gives you impressive, hands-on experience in your field of interest that looks great on a resume, as well as fostering in-organization connections that can serve as valuable steps toward a rewarding career.
6. On the other hand, volunteering provides the perfect escape from the complications of your actual job.
Volunteer doing something you can’t otherwise really justify making time for. Are you an art geek ? Volunteer at a museum or an art gallery. Are you an animal lover but don’t have time to dedicate to raising a pet? I bet you have a few hours to spend at the Humane Society each month. Indulge yourself by finding a fun position that will stimulate yet relax you.
5. It’s educational.
I know that sounds like kind of a boring reason, but volunteering can really give you a deeper understanding of whatever your area of focus is. I am a reading tutor for two little first grade boys, and not only do I now have a better understanding of how kids work, I also have a better understanding of the educational system, a better understanding of how nonprofits and schools collaborate, and a way better understanding of sharks, astronauts, firefighters, and dinosaurs. (That’s all first grade boys ever want to read about, apparently.)
4. It connects you to the community.
Along the same note, volunteering serves as an amazing connection to your community. Once you are involved with one organization, you will be surprised at how many networking opportunities will pop up. Volunteer Match is another wonderful site that allows you to see all the volunteering ops in your city by keyword, as well as providing a “virtual opportunity” option if you would rather donate your time from the comfort of your own computer desk/favorite coffee shop.
3. Your good intentions are recognized and rewarded.
Most organizations truly appreciate the fact that you are investing your time for their cause. My organization holds appreciation events twice a year for their volunteers, which means free food, drinks, and playful awards for everyone. If you volunteer at an art gallery, music venue, or theater, you usually get free tickets to shows. If you volunteer for a one-time benefit or fundraiser, you can probably bank on being fed, showered with thanks, and strutting on home with a brand spankin’ new t-shirt or some other kind of fun shwag. It’s obviously not the number one reason to volunteer, but it’s a nice perk. For instance, The Salem Hospital of Oregon and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg both provide a free flu shot, free parking, recognition at their annual ?fund raising event, and a discount at the hospital pharmacy.
2. Volunteering makes good friends.
Think about it: when you volunteer, you meet people with similar interests, passions, and desires. My best friend met her fiancé while pulling out invasive ivy at an Audubon Society? event.? The conversations and experiences have when volunteering facilitate vibrant, rewarding relationships.
1. It gives you the opportunity to change the world.
If you are reading this, you recognize the need. What better reason is there?
View more from the Top 10 in 2010 series.