What inspires people to volunteer?
Ever wonder what you might gain from being a volunteer?
Did you ever wonder why some people volunteer? What is it that inspires them or what are they getting out of all that hard work?
The answer for everyone is different, but here are some of the reasons I have noted over the years as I have listened to volunteers. These reasons seem to ring true for volunteers from a variety of non-profits and the research on volunteers.
Making connections, putting your skills to the test and building your resume—volunteers get the opportunity to gain experiences like these that can be listed on their resumes. If you are just starting out and looking to show what you can do designing a brochure, organizing an event or offering your skills to an organization can help you get your business off the ground or make those first connections.
Developing new skills and attending trainings. They may be professional skills or those to get your new hobby started. Volunteer commitments can take us into uncharted territory and encourage us to tackle new or different projects. In 4-H, it is not uncommon for 4-H volunteers to explore projects with young people and learn with them. We utilize curriculum to provide volunteers with organized lesson plans that help them explore areas of interest.
Moved by a cause or carrying on a family tradition with a specific organization. Many service clubs, non-profits, religious organizations, 4-H and FFA find that their membership and volunteers are loyal and have the next generation join because it is tradition. It is comfortable and familiar to be a part of something you know and love. Achieving the same goals and leading the same committees as the generation before you can almost be a rite of passage.
Giving back and setting the example. Making the world a better place one action at a time is important to many. Spending time at the food pantry, paying it forward and getting involved in your community are all ways to make a difference. How you spend your time shows what you really value and prioritize; what does your schedule say about you?
Unique opportunities. Working behind the scenes can give you the chance to meet some exciting people. Consider those who work on campaigns who get to meet the candidates, organize a benefit concert and meet the performers; you just never know who you will meet. Ushering at events, selling tickets, working the concessions might mean you get to see the show for free or at a discount.
It makes my heart happy! Various studies show volunteering reduces stress, decreases loneliness, takes the focus off your problems, provides you with a new perspective and actually makes you healthier. So the next time you volunteer and have that warm feeling when things go well, savor it and consider it a gift to yourself.
If you are looking for ways to volunteer in your community, take a look around at the variety of options, one of which is Michigan State University Extension. We offer opportunities in a variety of areas including 4-H and Master Gardeners, short term and long term.