We tend to feel connections to causes in which we have been directly impacted. Janet Bryner lost her husband to polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and is raising their four children who inherited it. She coordinates an annual charity walk to raise awareness and funds for PKD research so that her children, and others, can live fully and free of the disease.
It’s that feeling of emotional connectedness that inspires us to action – to make a difference. It turns out though, that there are benefits to volunteering. Here are five of them:
- Grow your network – You’ll meet people you wouldn’t otherwise know who can mentor and expose you to new opportunities.
- Build new skills – Volunteer at a charity triathlon and you’ll learn logistics. Sign on to purchase the items needed for a church fundraising dinner and you’ll understand budgeting. Get involved in building a new home for someone who has lost theirs and you’ll learn construction.
- Expand your resume – Those skills you’re building could lead you to a job promotion or a whole new career. When you take charge of a task, you’ll gain leadership experience that you can bring with you wherever you go.
- Discover your purpose – Scott and Connie Nicholson shared a love of motorcycles and the open road. When Scott was undergoing treatment for cancer, he recognized the financial need of his neighbor who was also a patient. That’s when the Nicholson Cancer Fund and an annual charity motorcycle ride was born. Now, the family is dedicated to helping patients impacted by cancer to get by a little easier.
- Improve your health and well being – According to Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota, “People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness. All of these things go up as their feeling of social connectedness goes up, which in reality, it does. It also improves their health and even their longevity.” – U.S. News & World Report
So why not volunteer? Joanne Orlando, a former teacher, tutors elementary children from her wheelchair proving that even a disability may not be a barrier to volunteering. And if time is a challenge, people like Phyllis and Ted Kovall remind us that it’s a race against time to save the sight of their young granddaughter and others like her with a rare disease that causes blindness. That’s why they work tirelessly to raise funds to find a cure.
Think about what’s important to you. Then talk to friends and community members or search the internet for organizations like VolunteerMatch.org to connect with your passion. Knowing you are making a difference and being part of something bigger than yourself are the true benefits of volunteering.
Now get out there and volunteer. There’s a cause – and a new purpose – just waiting for you!