With Volunteering, You Get as Much as You Give (Maybe Even More)

Thick in the season of gratitude and giving, it got us thinking: Why exactly do we volunteer? These are a few of the most common replies that came up around our offices.

It’s easy to be discouraged by the divisive nature of the headlines that seem to dominate the news cycles. You want things to change, but you’re skeptical about how much of an impact you could have. It’s just a matter of broadening your perspective. Look a little closer and you’ll find plenty of examples of volunteers working together to construct a children’s playground in a vacant lot or desperately needed low-cost housing. Gradually, these projects, and lots of others, are changing the face of our communities.

Without volunteers, nonprofits wouldn’t be able to carry out their ambitious missions. But, putting programs and services aside for a moment, we’re all in this together. We forget the power to change someone’s life is always in our hands. And volunteering is really just a means—one of many—to that end. Which is how such a basic commitment can be so rewarding.

Thinking about a career change? We’ve all been there. Trouble is, the longer we remain at a job, the more ingrained our responsibilities seem to become. Volunteering, however, can open lots of new doors. Sure, you’ll be asked to share your expertise, but you’ll also be pulled toward a bunch of other needs, like, say, marketing, logistics, or even cooking. By volunteering, you can create a new identity for yourself—and then leverage that experience later on in your professional life.

Technology is nudging us toward an increasingly isolated existence. We hear it all the time now. But, when you remove work and family from the equation, the two biggest parts of your life, how much time do you really have to go rally up some new friends? As though it was that easy. With volunteering, it kind of is. You’re walking into an environment where you’re surrounded by like-minded people doing very selfless things. Connections tend to form quickly when you don’t have to navigate all the usual barriers.