4 tips to get started volunteering

Volunteering is an incredible way of helping others and supporting your community and neighbors. You may want to help others but unsure where to volunteer. In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, here are 4 tips to get started volunteering.

The importance of paying it forward

I’m a big believer that volunteering gets people out of their own bubble. To look beyond your own needs and wants. And that’s important to do so we realize we ALL impact each other. Whether you want to help people, animals, environment or elsewhere, what matters is working to improve our society and world we live in.

Let’s be nice humans and help each other!

I feel so fortunate to be alive, healthy, financially stable, educated and loved by many. I know how lucky I am to be here, especially as a three-time cancer survivor. Giving back to help others (and our environment) is important to me.

I’ve found some great organizations that let me weave my interests along with different skills and available time. For instance, being a cancer advocate is a big part of my life. Volunteering my time and talent to contact legislators makes a difference in the fight against cancer [Read some easy ways to get involved in cancer advocacy]. I also assist cancer charities, such as Livestrong, with raising awareness of and funds for their cancer support programs [Read why I’m biking across Iowa to help Livestrong’s programs]. Volunteering at my nieces and nephew’s schools is super fun, as well as the local horse rescue organization.

Your help makes a difference!

I believe that everyone can pay it forward in some way. Maybe not financially, but we can all donate our time and talent. Every minute can help others. And the more we help others, the better our society will be. And that’s a positive for ALL!

Volunteering makes a difference. Consider this information:

  • Approximately 63 million Americans volunteer their time, talent and energy!
  • Women currently volunteer more than men (by about 6% more) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Volunteers are worth an average $28.54 an hour according to an Independent Sector Study. Volunteerism has a value of over $184 billion dollars each year in the U.S.
  • Those who volunteer regularly have a 27% better chance of gaining employment (60% of hiring managers see the act of volunteerism as a valuable asset when making recruitment decisions according to a study performed by Career Builder).

Did you know that volunteering also benefits YOU? It’s a win-win for everyone when you help others!

Here are some benefits of volunteering:

  • It’s a great way to meet new people and build a sense of community.
  • Spreading kindness can help improve your mental and emotional well-being! Studies show that helping others improves your mood and relieves stress and anxiety.
  • It can help with your career and life goals. Some volunteer opportunities may expand your current skills while opening the door to new connections. You may also learn new skills that you never thought to learn or kept putting off.

4 tips to get started volunteering:

What are you passionate about and/or enjoy doing?

Do you want to fight cancer? Love animals? Do you want to ensure clean parks and green spaces are available in your community? Check out some nonprofits near you. Ask your family and friends where they volunteer and what they like about these organizations. Many people stick with volunteering when helping organizations that focus on personal interests. I’ll admit that I am very committed to volunteering for cancer-related charities because fighting cancer and helping others impacted by the disease are very important to me.

Commit your time.

Consider how much time you have to donate to a cause. It may range from one to many hours per month. Some volunteer opportunities are project/event-based so you may only be called every few months. Or perhaps you want to sign up to help weekly. Be up front with the organization about your availability as you don’t want to bail out when they really need someone. Remember that even an hour here and there can make a big difference!

Look local.

People sometimes feel more committed to assisting when it benefits their local community. That’s a great place to get started! From food banks to schools to parks to cancer organizations and more, there are many choices to help build a strong community. Keep in mind that national-based organizations often have state or local offices and activities. That makes it easier to get and stay involved.

Recruit friends and family.

Volunteering with others is a great way to help and have fun at the same time! Gather your family, friends and/or coworkers together to help make a big difference. Many nonprofits have special group projects, such as spring cleaning gardens, packing food boxes, painting and building homes.

One example that I’ve participated in is at a local horse rescue organization. Every spring and fall, group volunteer days are held to clean the farm for the four-legged residents. Tasks can range from washing water buckets to fixing and painting fences to organizing the feed room to cleaning the pastures. It helps the organization get a lot of big projects done quickly while also exposing many people to the great mission and animals. My nieces, nephew and I have volunteered at these. It’s fun, great learning for them and I love meeting new horse-loving people!

Get started today!

There are thousands of great organizations that work to make a positive difference in the world. So remember if you don’t click with one charity for whatever reason, don’t give up! Seek out a new opportunity. But, if you don’t already volunteer, I do encourage you to get involved with a charity. I promise you will feel so great about helping others!

Where do you volunteer? I’d love to read in the comment section below!

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