So, your company has invested in an employee volunteering scheme. And they are offering staff the opportunity to volunteer during paid work hours. Great! But why should you be interested?
Benefits of volunteering
There are many reasons why a person might choose to volunteer their time to help others.
For some it’s a valuable way to gain experience and boost their CV. For others it’s a way to give back to their community or a chance to contribute towards an issue that has affected them deeply in their lives.
So it’s really important for you to consider your own motivations, when deciding if volunteering is right for you.
A lot has been written about the benefits to businesses of implementing corporate volunteering schemes. But significantly less has been said about the benefits of these schemes to employees. Yet the numerous benefits of volunteering have been proven time and time again by multiple studies.
Aside from some of the obvious benefits, such as a sense of accomplishment from giving back to society and contributing to a cause you feel passionate about, volunteering can also have some unexpected advantages, like significant improvements to physical and mental health.
A CNCS report on the health benefits of volunteering found a strong relationship between volunteering and health: “those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life, than those who do not volunteer”.
It has also been suggested that volunteering can affect happiness levels – 94% of people who volunteer report that it improves their mood. Studies have also shown that working with others (including working with animals) can help to counteract the effects of stress, anger and anxiety.
As well as improving a person’s mental and physical health, volunteering comes with a whole host of other benefits. But, as with anything, it is up to the volunteer to make the most of their experience.
Some people consider volunteering a good opportunity to make time for a hobby outside of work. Perhaps…
- you enjoy cooking and can assist with classes at a local food bank,
- gardening enthusiasts could consider helping out at community centre garden spaces, or
- those with a love for animals could get involved with a local shelter.
Similarly, it is a chance to utilise skills that you already have, or to keep up with a skill that you are perhaps not getting the chance to use within your work environment.
Lending your expertise to others with less experience is an easy way to get involved with volunteering and can be hugely rewarding.
Conversely, for some employees, a volunteering position outside of work could be a great opportunity to build confidence in an area they feel weaker in. This could, in turn, benefit their career.
Maybe it could be a chance to learn a new skill or gain a new qualification, as some volunteering posts require a level of training before you can start the job. Some might even want to consider it as a networking opportunity, as you are essentially opening yourself up to a whole new sector and making connections which might become useful in the future.
In short, there are a multitude of ways in which volunteering can benefit a person in both a professional and personal capacity.
As with any job, it is important to be clear with yourself about your goals and motivations before diving into a volunteering post. Be realistic about the time you are willing – or able – to set aside for this role.
You are more likely to stick with a position that fits easily into your schedule, even if it means you can only contribute a couple of hours every month.
You may even want to consider the possibility of virtual volunteering, where you can volunteer your skills without stepping away from your desk. Nowadays, taking on a volunteering role doesn’t have to mean an extra strain on an already busy schedule.
Think about your reasons for volunteering:
- What do you hope to get out of the experience?
- What skills or experience can you offer?
It is a good idea to consider the type of role you want to get involved with. That could mean working in a team environment or independently, or you may want to learn a new skill or work in an area in which you are already confident.
Being honest with yourself about your own goals and expectations is the first step towards finding an organisation that aligns with your beliefs and suits your need. This will transform your volunteering experience from what could be a potential chore, to a fulfilling and mutually beneficial investment.
Speak to the person who is in charge of your organisations employee volunteering scheme before you make any final decisions.
This guest post was written by Betty Henderson, Project Support Intern, volunteering with Social Good HQ.