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 provides many benefits to both mental and physical health.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.