Why people volunteer
Believe it or not, the main reason that people volunteer has to do with our biology. As human beings, we like to help others, and studies show that there can be significant health benefits for volunteers including reducing your blood pressure and risk of depression. It can also help you to stay physically and mentally active and best of all you get to experience ‘the happiness effect’. You know that great feeling you get when you’ve helped out. That’s actually your body rewarding you with a boost of dopamine – the feel-good hormone.
But aside from those health benefits, if you talk to any number of volunteers and ask them why people volunteer, they’ll come up with a host of reasons for why they so generously donate their time to any given cause.
Here are a few of the more common reasons why people volunteer:
- To support an organisation, a community or a cause.
There will often be a personal connection to the organisation, community or cause that someone chooses to support. Something that has directly affected them or their family. Other times, it’s for a cause that they’re passionate about. Volunteering provides a tangible way to be a part of something.
- To make a difference in people’s lives.
Knowing that your contribution will make a difference to even just one person is a pretty special thing and contributes not only to your personal growth but also the personal and emotional growth of the recipient. If you volunteer at a school, whether on a P&C or as a classroom volunteer, research shows that kids whose parents are involved in their school perform better.
- To meet people.
Volunteering allows you to connect with like-minded people who are passionate about a cause or social issue and having shared interests with someone is a great basis for new friendships and building long-lasting relationships. Also, it can be fun! There’s no better way to make friends at a new school or club than to jump in and volunteer.
- To challenge or develop themselves personally or professionally.
People often volunteer in areas that they know will suit their skill set, but volunteering also gives you the opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Expanding your current skillset by challenging yourself with something unfamiliar is a great quality and you can learn valuable new skills and talents. These can be great for your career, in helping to find a job or to be used in your everyday life.
- It’s a great way to give back to the community.
People like to support community resources that they use themselves or that benefit the people they care about.
These days there is no stereotypical description of ‘the volunteer’. They come from all walks of life, cultural backgrounds, locations and ages, from kids to retirees. But I guess the bottom line is volunteering builds community and community is something that we all want to part of.