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10 reasons why volunteering is good for you

Since joining YHA’s Youth Advisory Team and becoming a volunteer team member at YHA Hartington Hall, volunteering has become a significant part of my life. I’ve met new people, developed new skills, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone (a lot!). YHA has helped me to see that the impact of volunteering goes way beyond simply ‘doing good’. My voluntary commitments have helped me to re-find balance in my life and provided me with opportunities to grow as a person while supporting the organisation.

If you’re feeling unsure or sceptical about volunteering, then please stick around. Below are 10 reasons why volunteering could be for you. Whatever your age, circumstances or interests, there’s a volunteering opportunity out there for you. And you might be surprised at how much you can gain from giving it a go!

1. It feels good

We all know that voluntary work helps others, but it can also do wonders for your own sense of wellbeing. From increased self-confidence to feelings of achievement and identity, volunteering has many proven mood-boosting effects. In fact, pro-social behaviour, or actions that benefit others, have been shown to activate the reward centres in the brain and give us an enduring feeling of satisfaction. For some, volunteering can be a way to reconvene with forgotten passions and hobbies, or even discover new ones. Either way, reserving a small (or large) amount of time for a cause of your choosing can help restore your work-life balance and spur a renewed feeling of purpose within your personal life.

2. It does good

However big or small your involvement, volunteering makes a real difference. Some organisations, notably those in the not-for-profit sector, can rely almost exclusively on volunteers to keep things ticking over. While others may depend less on volunteered hours, the extra support can help an organisation enhance its service, raise its profile, and ultimately reach out to more people who can benefit from its provision. The far-reaching effects of volunteering know no bounds. You could be impacting the lives of people in need, supporting animal welfare, conserving green spaces or restoring cultural landmarks. Whatever the task, every hour of volunteering plays an intrinsic part in a wider movement that aims to make the world a little bit better.

3. It’s flexible

Time is indeed precious, and it can sometimes feel impossible to fit any more into an already cramped schedule. But volunteering opportunities don’t tend to follow a 9-5 program, and you can make an arrangement that works for you. Remember, even an hour a week can add up to a big impact. For those who are particularly pressed for time, micro-volunteering can provide a quick and convenient way of doing good. Whether you’re weeding a bed in a local community garden or helping a charity set up their social media, these bite-sized or one-off activities don’t require a long-term commitment, and many can be done from the comfort of your own home.

4. It’s sociable

Being a volunteer connects you to others and to your wider community. Volunteering is an inherently social affair that brings together a diverse range of individuals. As such, it can be a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and expand your support network. With many community hubs and shared spaces having limited operations in the last two years, social isolation and anxiety has affected many. Acting within a collective and working towards a shared vision can build the strength and resilience of your community while cultivating positive change for a cause that’s close to your heart.

5. It’s experience

It’s a familiar predicament — you need the relevant experience to secure a job, but you need the job to get that experience. Thankfully, volunteering can provide the perfect avenue to gain applicable experience in your field of interest. Alternatively, if you’re less sure about your career path, having the opportunity to try out something new on a voluntary basis can help you establish whether or not it’s the right thing for you. In some cases, organisations can even offer you training, and the chance to gain associated qualifications through the work you’re doing.

6. It’s a foot in the door

Volunteering can be a great way to get your foot in the door of an organisation or industry that you hope to pursue. It gives you the opportunity to learn more about them, how they operate and how you (with your newfound experience) might fit in. It’s also a way to network from the inside and get to know your potential workmates. With a little patience, and transparency about your interest in a salaried position, you’ll be the first to know about any openings whether inside the organisation or with a similar one in their contacts.

7. It’s a foot out the door

The dawn of virtual volunteering has made it easy to practice altruism from the sofa, but simply getting out of the house is perhaps an underrated benefit of more ‘traditional’ volunteering. With many of us working from home and spending less time outdoors, volunteering can help you shake up your normal routine and give you the impetus to get out and about every so often. Whether you’re reconstructing paths in a nature reserve or bringing your energy to a local youth club, more active roles can help bring balance to a particularly sedentary lifestyle and help you sustain a healthy body and mind.

8. It’s free

You may have heard volunteers referred to as priceless, as their meaningful contributions to society go beyond that which money could measure. Inevitably, giving up time to any cause without the added incentive of payment can understandably discourage some. However, it’s important to remember that your involvement and the mutual benefits gained come at no cost to you or the organisation you’re supporting. In fact, in most cases, your volunteering expenses can be covered, and you might even be eligible for a free lunch!

9. It looks good on your CV

It’s perhaps not the main reason to volunteer, but voluntary commitments are inevitably an attractive attribute to potential employers. Whether or not your volunteering is directly related to your dream job, your experiences can give employers an invaluable feel for who you are as a person, beyond your academic achievements and professional credentials. From showing that your motivations aren’t purely money-driven to giving a better insight into your passions outside of your career path, a willingness to volunteer alludes to a strong value system.

10. There’s endless opportunities 

There’s a volunteering opportunity to suit everyone. Although both tend to have strong volunteer networks, remember charities and not-for-profit organisations are not the only ones that offer volunteering opportunities. You could volunteer for a community group, a public-sector organisation such as the NHS, an educational setting or a local (or global) business.

If you’re ready to begin your volunteering journey it can be good to consider a few things to find the right fit for you:

• what sector of work are you interested in?
• how much time have you got to spare?
• what skills could you offer and/or what skills would you like to develop?
• from home, locally, or further afield?

There are countless online resources where you can see the volunteering opportunities available in your area, and beyond. But visiting your local volunteer centre, checking your community/university/college bulletin board, or even contacting an organisation of interest directly can be a good place to start too. Many well-known job sites like Indeed advertise voluntary jobs, but there are also a number of websites set up to help you find exclusively voluntary roles based on your preferences. These include:

Your voluntary contribution, however large your commitment, matters. With the right fit for you, you’ll begin to spark positive change within the world, and within yourself. It’s a win-win situation. If you choose to give volunteering a go then sharing your experience — for example with family/friends or online — can help spread the word and inspire others to follow in your philanthropic footsteps.

Happy volunteering!

Find out how you can volunteer for YHA.

By Louise Thompson, Youth Advisory Team 

Discover more about YHA.

Photo credit: Helen Hotson / Adobe Stock 

Written by Youth Advisory Team

The YHA Youth Advisory Team is a team of young people who provide direction and leadership to YHA. This is for the purpose of achieving YHA’s strategic objective that young people (under 26) are included in governance and in all aspects of the charity’s decision making.

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