Volunteering is valuable to both the giver and the receiver - Albuquerque Journal

Volunteering is valuable to both the giver and the receiver

According to the Cambridge Dictionary a volunteer is “noun: a person who does something, especially helping other people, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it” and “verb: to offer to do something that you do not have to do, often without having been asked to do it and/or without expecting payment.”

Volunteering is not free time. It is valuable to the giver and the receiver. According to multiple sources that track volunteer contributions, approximately 63 million Americans give more than 8 billion hours of volunteer service annually, valued in excess of $200 billion. Those who volunteer are usually involved with one organization; some volunteer with two or more organizations.

Benefits of volunteering

Most people do not volunteer for what they will get from the experience, and yet there are rewards. Much has been written about the benefits of volunteering.

• We are social beings. Volunteering connects you to others. You can make new friends or strengthen relationships through volunteering. There are common interests that generally go beyond the work you do together. In the volunteer setting you can increase your social and relationship skills.

• It is good for your mind and body. Volunteering can increase your self-confidence, providing a sense of accomplishment. Volunteering helps combat depression by keeping you in regular contact with others. It also helps keep you physically active.

• Learning a new skill or introduction to a new career. Whether new to the job market or an experienced worker, skills can be honed in teamwork, communication, problem-solving, organization and more. If thinking about a new career, volunteering can provide a sample of the new career and/or connections for entry into the job. Additionally, organizations may offer training that is readily available for anyone in their organizations, job related or not.

• Volunteering can be fun. You may find a way to use your hobby in a giving way. If you cannot have a pet full time, perhaps volunteering to exercise dogs at the shelter is a fit.

Volunteering as a family

It is a great lesson to observe how good it feels to help other people. When people volunteer at a young age, it can become a lifelong habit. A friend told me that as a child when she told her mother she was bored, her mother would tell her she must have time and energy to help someone. They then set about finding good to do for others.

While it may be a challenge to find an organization that has mastered the art of family volunteering, those that do clearly know the long-term value for the organization and the family.

Schools may offer service-learning credits for volunteering in the community. Students can bring a new perspective to the organization and leave with valuable lessons.

Finding the right fit

First make some decisions about how you want volunteering to fit into your life.

• How many hours do you want to volunteer per week or month?

• Is this a long-term commitment, a period of time such as three months or a one-time event?

• Are you able to go to a location, do you want to volunteer from home, or does a mix of locations work?

• Are you interested in volunteering for a cause or an interest? Is it a need you read about in the Albuquerque Journal -something that affected you, a family member or friend or maybe you know someone who is doing volunteer work and you want to join them?

• How do you want to help? From the office to the field, think about what you want to do and be flexible to the need.

• Is this volunteer opportunity for you, a group, or your family?

And think about the questions you want to ask when talking with the organization.

• What do volunteers do in their organization?

• Is there a job description for what you will be doing?

• Who will be your boss?

• What training is provided?

Once you decide on the area of interest to volunteer in, find the organization. Be patient in establishing the relationship. Remember they may be adjusting to the effects of the pandemic with staff working in the office or home and perhaps their volunteers are not to prepandemic levels. Some nonprofits have no paid staff or few staff. If it takes a little time to get started, do not lose your enthusiasm.

Volunteer Match has a list of volunteer opportunities at volunteermatch.org/search/index.jsp, as does One Albuquerque ABQ Volunteers oneabqvolunteers.com/need/. There are many opportunities to volunteer. Find a fit for you to make a difference.

Sources: wcsu.edu/community-engagement/benefits-of-volunteering/

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