The 5 Reasons I Volunteer

Updated and reposted from my blog on BlogHer.

Three and a half years ago I decided volunteering and giving back to the community might help me acquire more balance in my often-frantic and frequently unbalanced life of corporate employee, single parent, homeowner, pet guardian and all of the other roles I fulfill.

I signed up with a local volunteer organization, One Brick, and showed up at my first event, helping Sunset, a local magazine with a gorgeous campus (lots of test kitchens and gardens), sell tickets to a tiny home tour. We toured the home and an amazing outdoor kitchen setup for free – while others were paying $10 for the same privilege. It was fun, the people were nice, and it took me out of my own life for a while.

I did a few more events, and then was asked to join the event management team – since the more managers One Brick has, the more non-profits we can help. Without any hesitation I said yes – managing two to three events a month felt doable and I figured it would keep me committed to consistently volunteering.

And I do. My hours vary based on what else is going on in my life, but I’ve done so many different events – just to name a few:
  • Sorting cans and fruit at the food bank
  • A repair a bike workshop for kids in need
  • Fundraiser event support
  • Handing out water for a 5K race
  • Picking up trash along a creek
  • Rose deadheading in a city park
  • My latest favorite – helping to serve the meal at a local soup kitchen that serves a free dinner five nights a week. (I'm now coming up on the end of two years of serving dinner at the soup kitchen once a month, and it's consistently a highlight of my month.)
 And I’m in good company – according The Chronicle for Philanthropy, which cites a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service, 63.4 million adult Americans ­— nearly 27 percent of the population — volunteered to help charitable causes in 2009.

So here are the reasons I volunteer. I hope that some of them resonate with you and will encourage you to volunteer in your community.
  1. While I won’t say that volunteering has perfected my life and smoothed out all of the rough spots, it does help me in my struggle for balance by taking me out of my daily life for a few hours and letting me focus on serving others.
  1. On days when I’m feeling at my most cynical – volunteering helps me feel the buds of hope for our world blooming in my heart, and I can smile.
  1. There’s something about spending several hours with a group of like-minded people – who are working to help others and who want to make the world a better place – that helps you be a better person. At least for part of your day, you’re more forgiving, more accepting, and more grateful for the blessings you do have. Since many people use the Thanksgiving holiday as a way to work on being centered and grateful for their blessings, volunteering is a perfect way to spread the wealth.
  1. Volunteering is good for your health. According to a report from the Corporation for National and Community Service, there is a close relationship between volunteering and health. People who volunteer are found to have lower mortality rates, stronger cognitive ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
  2.  I'm always working on publicizing our volunteer organization via social media channels (including managing our Facebook page), extending our reach, so even when I'm not doing my social media day job, I'm using my social and marketing skills and knowledge.
I find that when I volunteer and help someone in need, the benefits definitely go both ways, tangible and intangible.

So give it a go – you have nothing to lose and so much to gain. :-)