Volunteering can help you make friends, learn new skills, advance your career, and even feel happier và healthier. Learn how lớn find the right volunteer opportunity for you.

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Why volunteer?

With busy lives, it can be hard lớn find time to lớn volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help khổng lồ people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you khổng lồ find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, và even advance your career.

Giving to others can also help protect your mental và physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, & provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have lớn involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need và improve your health and happiness.

Benefits of volunteering: 4 ways lớn feel healthier và happier

Volunteering connects you to others.Volunteering is good for your mind & body.Volunteering can advance your career.Volunteering brings fun & fulfillment lớn your life.

Benefit 1: Volunteering connects you lớn others

One of the more well-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community & make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to lớn the lives of people, animals, & organizations in need. Và volunteering is a two-way street: It can benefit you và your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, & boost your social skills.

Make new friends and contacts

One of the best ways lớn make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to lớn commit lớn a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way khổng lồ meet new people, especially if you are new lớn an area. It strengthens your ties khổng lồ the community and broadens your support network, exposing you khổng lồ people with common interests, neighborhood resources, & fun and fulfilling activities.

Increase your social và relationship skills

While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy & have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice và develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier khổng lồ branch out & make more friends và contacts.

Volunteering as a family

Children watch everything you do. By giving back lớn the community, you’ll show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help other people and animals and enact change. It’s also a valuable way for you lớn get khổng lồ know organizations in the community & find resources and activities for your children and family.

Benefit 2: Volunteering is good for your mind và body

Volunteering provides many benefits lớn both mental & physical health.

Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, và anxiety. The social tương tác aspect of helping & working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being. Nothing relieves bao tay better than a meaningful connection lớn another person. Working with pets & other animals has also been shown khổng lồ improve mood và reduce stress and anxiety.

Volunteering combats depression. Volunteering keeps you in regular liên hệ with others và helps you develop a solid tư vấn system, which in turn protects you against depression.

Volunteering makes you happy. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful lớn others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired lớn give to lớn others. The more we give, the happier we feel.

Volunteering increases self-confidence. You are doing good for others và the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride & identity. & the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to lớn have a positive view of your life và future goals.

Volunteering provides a sense of purpose. Older adults, especially those who have retired or lost a spouse, can find new meaning & direction in their lives by helping others. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and địa chỉ more zest to lớn your life.

Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who bởi vì not. Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, are less likely to lớn develop high blood pressure, & have better thinking skills. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain & reduce the risk of heart disease.

I have limited mobility—can I still volunteer?

People with disabilities or chronic health conditions can still benefit greatly from volunteering. In fact, research has shown that adults with disabilities or health conditions ranging from hearing and vision loss lớn heart disease, diabetes or digestive disorders all show improvement after volunteering.

Whether due to lớn a disability, a lack of transportation, or time constraints, many people choose to lớn volunteer their time via phone or computer. In today’s digital age, many organizations need help with writing, graphic design, email, & other web-based tasks. Some organizations may require you khổng lồ attend an initial training session or periodical meetings while others can be conducted completely remotely. In any volunteer situation, make sure that you are getting enough social contact, và that the organization is available to support you should you have questions.

Benefit 3: Volunteering can advance your career

If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest & meet people in the field. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity lớn practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, & organization. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.

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Teaching you valuable job skills

Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. For example, you could become an experienced crisis counselor while volunteering for a women’s shelter or a knowledgeable art historian while donating your time as a museum docent.

Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have & use them lớn benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you can raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing & improving your public speaking, communication, and kinh doanh skills.

Gaining career experience

Volunteering offers you the chance khổng lồ try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. In some fields, you can volunteer directly at an organization that does the kind of work you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home.

Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organizations or internships that could benefit your career.

When it comes to volunteering, passion and positivity are the only requirements

While learning new skills can be beneficial lớn many, it’s not a requirement for a fulfilling volunteer experience. Bear in mind that the most valuable assets you can bring to lớn any volunteer effort are compassion, an open mind, a willingness lớn pitch in wherever needed, và a positive attitude.

Benefit 4: Volunteering brings fun & fulfillment to lớn your life

Volunteering is a fun & easy way khổng lồ explore your interests & passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, & vision that can carry over into your personal và professional life.

Many people volunteer in order to lớn make time for hobbies outside of work as well. For instance, if you have a desk job & long khổng lồ spend time outdoors, you might consider volunteering khổng lồ help plant a community garden, walk dogs for an animal shelter, or help out at a children’s camp.

How khổng lồ find the right volunteer opportunity

There are numerous volunteer opportunities available. The key is to lớn find a position that you would enjoy & are capable of doing. It’s also important lớn make sure that your commitment matches the organization’s needs. Ask yourself the following:

Would you like to work with adults, children, animals, or remotely from home?Do you prefer khổng lồ work alone or as part of a team?Are you better behind the scenes or bởi vì you prefer khổng lồ take a more visible role?How much time are you willing lớn commit?What skills can you bring to a volunteer job?What causes are important lớn you?

Consider your goals và interests

You will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteering experience if you first take some time to identify your goals and interests. Think about why you want khổng lồ volunteer. What would you enjoy doing? The opportunities that match both your goals & your interests are most likely lớn be fun and fulfilling.

What are your volunteering goals?

To find a volunteer position that’s right for you, look for something that matches your personality, skills, và interests. Ask yourself if there is something specific you want to bởi or achieve as a volunteer.

For example, you might want to:

Improve your neighborhood.Meet new people with different outlooks or experiences.Try something new.Do something rewarding with your spare time.See new places or experience a different way of living.Try a new type of work that you might want to lớn pursue as a full-time job.Expand on your interests & hobbies.

Consider several volunteer possibilities

Don’t limit yourself to just one organization or one specific type of job. Sometimes an opportunity looks great on paper, but the reality is quite different. Try lớn visit different organizations and get a feel for what they are like and if you click with other staff and volunteers.

Where khổng lồ find volunteer opportunities

Community theaters, museums, and monuments.Libraries or senior centers.Service organizations such as Lions Clubs or Rotary Clubs.Local animal shelters, rescue organizations, or wildlife centers.Youth organizations, sports teams, và after-school programs.Historical restorations, national parks, and conservation organizations.Places of worship such as churches or synagogues.Online directories và other resources (see below).

How much time should you volunteer?

Volunteering doesn’t have khổng lồ take over your life khổng lồ be beneficial. In fact, research shows that just two to three hours per week, or about 100 hours a year, can confer the most benefits—to both you và your chosen cause. The important thing is to volunteer only the amount of time that feels comfortable khổng lồ you. Volunteering should feel lượt thích a fun & rewarding hobby, not another chore on your to-do list.

Getting the most out of volunteering

You’re donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. Khổng lồ make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit:

Ask questions. You want khổng lồ make sure that the experience is right for your skills, your goals, và the time you want to spend. Sample questions for your volunteer coordinator might address your time commitment, if there’s any training involved, who you will be working with, & what to vị if you have questions during your experience.

Make sure you know what’s expected. You should be comfortable with the organization và understand the time commitment. Consider starting small so that you don’t over commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility khổng lồ change your focus if needed.

Don’t be afraid lớn make a change. Don’t force yourself into a bad fit or feel compelled khổng lồ stick with a volunteer role you dislike. Talk khổng lồ the organization about changing your focus or look for a different organization that’s a better fit.

If volunteering overseas, choose carefully. Some volunteer programs abroad can cause more harm than good if they take much-needed paying jobs away from local workers. Look for volunteer opportunities with reputable organizations.

Enjoy yourself.

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The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer & the organization. If you’re not enjoying yourself, ask yourself why. Is it the tasks you’re performing? The people you’re working with? Or are you uncomfortable simply because the situation is new and unfamiliar? Pinpointing what’s bothering you can help you decide how to proceed.

Where lớn find volunteer opportunities

VolunteerMatch– Find opportunities that match your volunteer interests, from location lớn type of work. (VolunteerMatch)

Idealist– Find volunteer opportunities in your local area or internationally. (Idealist)

National & Community Service– Federal organization offering volunteer positions across the U.S. (National Service)

Volunteer– Directory of environmental volunteer opportunities. (

U.S. Peace Corps– Offers volunteer opportunities overseas & includes a50 Plusdivision. (Peace Corps)

American Red Cross– Volunteer in any of the Red Cross’s key service areas. (Red Cross)

Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Và Lawrence Robinson

Last updated: October 2020

Simple Changes, Big Rewards – A Practical, Easy Guide for Healthy, Happy Living. (Harvard Medical School Special Health Report)

Why volunteer?– The benefits of volunteering, including benefits khổng lồ your career. (Timebank)

The Health Benefits of Volunteering: Recent Research (PDF)– Research on the benefits of volunteering, especially for seniors. (Corporation for National & Community Service)

The many ways volunteering is good for your heart– Includes resources for finding volunteer positions. (Harvard Health Publications)

10 Tips on Volunteering Wisely– Tips to lớn make the most of your volunteering experience. (Network for Good)