Benefits of Volunteering [+ tips on how to apply]

Benefits of Volunteering [+ tips on how to apply] 

9 May 2022

Anyone who’s spent time volunteering before will tell you that it makes them feel good. But it might surprise you to know that the mental and physical benefits of volunteering have been proven to be true. And it isn’t only health that can be improved by volunteering – it’s been known to have benefits for personal, career development and social skills.  

So, what are some of the ways that volunteering can improve your life and how can you get involved? 

Health benefits of volunteering

According to a study conducted by the Journal of Happiness Studies over a 20 year span, ‘people who volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better’. And not only this, but they found a link between greater benefits and more frequent volunteering, meaning that the more regularly you get involved, the better you’ll feel! 

There are a few reasons why volunteering may help with mental wellbeing. One theory that psychologists have discovered is that, while our happiness levels quickly adjust to things that initially give us pleasure, when we are doing something nice for others, our happiness levels stay high and don’t adjust in the same way.  

For example, if you were given money to spend on yourself every day for a week, initially your happiness levels would spike but would then slowly decline as the week went on. However, if you spent that money on doing something nice for someone else every day, your happiness levels would stay high all week. Volunteering is a bit the same, while being kind to yourself (going to the gym, eating well, keeping your home clean) can quickly get tiring, doing something nice for another person will make you feel good every time.  

You may also be surprised to learn that volunteering is not only beneficial for your mental wellbeing but can have a positive impact on your physical health too. Volunteering has been linked to lower blood pressure, lower mortality rates and reduced risk of heart disease and strokes. This could be because many volunteering opportunities get people on their feet and regularly active, or because they require volunteers to apply their skills in new and different ways, encouraging mental exercise and the creation of new neural pathways.  

Career benefits of volunteering

Volunteering is also an underrated yet useful tool for career development. It’s a chance to gain experience in a new area before making a move to a new department. For example, if you’re a marketer who’s interested in specialising in social media marketing or copywriting, you could look to find a volunteering opportunity supporting a non-profit organisation with those kinds of tasks to hone your skills before approaching your manager.  

Or if one of your career goals includes reaching senior management level, taking a trustee or director position on the board of a charitable organisation is a brilliant way to gain board experience and help you stand out from the crowd when it comes time to apply. 

Many skilled volunteering roles even provide training before you can get started. This is a golden opportunity for some free personal or professional development and absolutely something you should be shouting about on your CV.  

Skilled volunteering can help you gain new skills, brush up on existing ones and try your hand at something new before making any big career moves.  

Social benefits of volunteering

Last, but not least, volunteering is a way to meet new friends and connect with people outside of your usual circles.  

This is something that many people realised during the first hard months of the pandemic in 2020. It was a time when many of us were more isolated than ever, but communities came together to help each other and look out for the most vulnerable people. Oftentimes this kind of support wasn’t even considered to be volunteering but just ‘helping out’. Picking up medication, dropping round shopping, and calling to check in on those who needed support brought people closer together in ways they might not have expected.  

The same often happens with more traditional volunteering roles as you become part of a new community of volunteers and beneficiaries in your area or online. It can be a way to give back to a cause that’s close to your heart, support an organisation which has helped you or a loved one in the past, and meet people who have been through similar experiences as you or who share similar interests.  

If volunteering sounds like your cup of tea, here are some tips for getting involved: 

Volunteering through Social Good Connect: 

If your employer is a member business, follow these handy hints to find your ideal role! 

  1. Don’t ignore the matched emails, they’re sent to you because the opportunity matches one or more of the criteria you selected on your profile.  
  1. Don’t be scared to message a non-profit for more information – you’re not committing to anything at this point. You might want to ask about training, start dates or PVG certificates for example. 
  1. Why not try your hand at something virtual? It might seem a little odd, but you wouldn’t believe the impact your expertise could have on an organisation even from afar.  
  1. Be patient – we encourage all of our non-profits to get back to volunteers as quickly as they can but they’re usually very busy and might not get to your email for a couple of days. This doesn’t mean they don’t want your help!  
  1. That being said, please keep us in the loop. If you haven’t heard from them in over a week please reach out to a member of our team and we’ll check in with the non-profit on your behalf to make sure everything’s ok. 

Volunteering as an individual: 

  1. Volunteering platforms such as Reach Volunteering, VolunteerMatch, or Volunteer Scotland are great searchable databases of local or virtual volunteering opportunities. 
  1. Or, even better, if you have a non-profit in mind, why not approach them directly and offer your support? Even if they aren’t publicly recruiting, you never know when your skills might be appreciated.  
  1. It can be hard to find small, grassroots organisations in your local community but this is often where your support can have the biggest impact. A good way to find volunteering opportunities like these is to keep an eye out for flyers in your local library or community centre or to talk to the people who work there about the kinds of causes you’d like to support – they’re well-placed to have some good local intel! 

Ready to volunteer? 

If you want to learn more about volunteering through Social Good Connect, why not book a call with a member of our team. Or contact us here if you’d like some support to talk to your manager about employee volunteering.  

Written by Betty Henderson

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