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About Volunteering

Why Volunteer

Almost all of Ottawa’s non-profit and charitable organizations rely on volunteers to fulfil their objectives. At any given time, Volunteer Ottawa has over 500 volunteer positions posted. There is a wide range of opportunities available - from short- term event support, to skills-based professional services, to working one-on-one with clients. Bear in mind that the most valuable skills you can bring to any volunteer effort are compassion, an open mind, a willingness to do whatever is needed, and a positive attitude.

Volunteering allows you to:aboutvolsm.jpg

  • Directly impact the community
  • Promote a cause
  • Meet new people, make friends and build your contacts
  • Learn new skills
  • Advance your career
  • Promote mental and physical health

Volunteering connects you the community

One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need. And volunteering is a two-way street: It can benefit you and 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, and boost your social skills.

Volunteering promotes mental and physical health

Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health.

  • Volunteering increases self-confidence. Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity...
  • Volunteering provides a sense of purpose. Older adults, especially those who have retired or lost a spouse, can find new meaning and purpose 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 add more zest to your life.
  • Volunteering combats depression. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times. Working with pets and other animals has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. The physical activity involved in certain forms of volunteering—such as environmental projects in parks, nature reserves, or beaches—can be good for your health at any age, but it’s especially beneficial in older adults. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.
  • Volunteering can make you happier.  Studies have shown that helping others promotes happiness – the more people volunteer, the happier they are.

Volunteering can advance your career

If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and organization. 

Volunteering also offers you the chance to try out a new career. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organizations or internships that could be of benefit to your career.

Volunteering can teach you valuable skills

Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are not valuable. 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 and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills.

Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life

Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and 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, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.

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

Tips on Volunteering

What are your goals and interests when seeking volunteer opportunities? You will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteering experience if you first take some time to identify your goals and interests. Start by thinking about why you want to volunteer. Also think about what you would enjoy doing. Volunteer opportunities that match both your goals and your interests are most likely to be fulfilling.

Ask yourself if there is something specific you want to do.

For example, do I want…

….to make it better around where I live
….to help people who need help
….to meet people who are different from me
….to try something new
….to do something with my spare time
….to try the type of work I might want to do as a full-time job
….to do more with my interests and hobbies
….to do something I’m good at

The best way to volunteer is to match your personality and interests. Having answers to these questions will help you narrow down your search.

How to find the right volunteer opportunity

There are numerous volunteer opportunities available. The key is to find a volunteer position that you would enjoy and are capable of doing. It’s also important to make sure that your commitment matches the organization’s needs. The following questions can help you narrow your options:

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

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, go to Volunteer Ottawa’s Search for Volunteer Opportunities where you will be able to further narrow down your search, or to Join our Volunteer Pool where you can sign onto our pool and provide a comprehensive picture of your volunteer preferences, skills and experience, as well as other information relevant to organizations seeking volunteers.

How much time should you volunteer?

Volunteering doesn’t have to take over your life to 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 and your chosen cause. The important thing is to volunteer only the amount of time that feels comfortable to you. Volunteering should feel like a fun and 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. It’s important to make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit and to communicate with the people you’re working with in the volunteer organization.

  • Ask questions. You want to make sure that the experience is right for your skills, your goals, and the time you want to spend. If you have any questions, be sure to speak up. Sample questions to your volunteer coordinator might address your time commitment, if there’s any training involved, who you will be working with, and what to do if you have questions during your experience.
  • Make sure you know what’s expected. Before starting, make sure you are comfortable with the organization, know what is expected, and understand the time commitment. Consider starting small so that you don’t over commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility to change your focus if needed.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a change. Speak up if your experience isn’t what you expected. Don’t force yourself into a bad fit. Talk to the organization about changing your focus or consider looking for another match.
  • Enjoy yourself. Most importantly, make sure you’re having fun! The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and 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 familiar? Pinpointing what’s bothering you can help you decide how to proceed.

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 to heart disease, diabetes or digestive disorders all show improvement after volunteering.

Whether due to a disability, a lack of transportation, or time constraints, many people choose to volunteer their time via phone or computer. There are many projects where you can help. Writing and graphic design lends itself to working at home, and in today's digital age many organizations might also need help with email and websites.  

Source: HealthGuide.Org