When you describe volunteering out loud—willingly offering to do something for someone else without expecting compensation—it sounds a bit strange. If your boss asked you to volunteer your time at the office on a Saturday, chances are that you’d downright refuse. So what is it about volunteering that makes us want to donate our time and our efforts to someone else without receiving anything in return? As it turns out, while we might not receive monetary compensation from volunteering, we may end up walking away with something even better.
- Volunteering benefits society. Many organizations need to maintain a strong volunteer force to remain successful. Places like museums, faith-based organizations, and even local firefighting companies rely on volunteers to run. Local organizations benefit the community members, so volunteering your time in turn benefits the community in which you live.
- Volunteering your time makes you feel like you have more of it. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that people who donate their time through volunteering actually feel less rushed and as though they actually have more time. People who volunteer are less likely to view their time as scarce and more likely to donate more time in the future, the same way that people who donate money in turn feel wealthier themselves.
- Volunteering can help your career. People who volunteer make more money, partly due to the connections that they make while volunteering. Volunteering also looks great to potential employers because it shows you have initiative and a willingness to learn new skills.
- Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose. Volunteering your time for others can help put yourself and your life into perspective. You see others who have less than you do and in turn see what you have to be thankful for. People also generally volunteer their time to help an issue about which they feel strongly, so volunteering can help bring about change to a cause issue that you hold important.
- Volunteering makes you more empathetic. Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others and share in them, and it’s an important trait to have in a society like ours. It allows you to better see and address the needs of those around you, which ultimately enhances your personal life satisfaction by creating and cultivating relationships with others. Best-selling author Jeremy Rifkin argues that only by extending empathy across borders and around the world will we create a healthy and sustainable planet.
- People who volunteer are healthier and live longer. Psychology Today notes that people who volunteer later in life receive more health benefits than those who simply exercise and eat well. In fact, research shows that people who volunteer have greater functional ability, lower rates of depression, and lower mortality rates than those who don’t. However, people who volunteer later in life are almost always ones who began volunteering at a younger age, so it’s never too early to start.
- You make a difference. Even if you’re just one person helping a single person, the impact that you have is exponential. There’s no way to measure how your actions will ripple out and go on to affect others.
Volunteering is, in itself, a selfless act. We do it to help others and, as an added bonus, receive great benefits to ourselves without even realizing it. Religious leader Gordon Hinckley once said, “One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”