The voluntary sector. A term for both charities and charitable organisations (not registered as charities) which undertake work that benefits society. Many organisations employ numerous staff and can often be the size and stature of successful medium-sized businesses. Crucially, however, they operate independently for the public good without profit distributing.
Perhaps surprisingly, given that there is generally no remuneration, employment in the voluntary sector is growing rapidly. Conversely, there are many benefits for a vast cross section of people. Depending on where you are on your life path, volunteering can be carried out alongside paid employment, between positions or in retirement.
Here is a list of 10 great things about volunteering; hopefully it can encourage you to consider getting involved.
1. Make new friends and contacts. Be part of a team
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. It also strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with both common and diverse interests. Being part of a team is extremely beneficial and gives a sense of belonging and a connection to others.
No one is trying to advance a career path and so pulling together, using everyone’s different strengths achieves a positive outcome. It can be a great experience for a person not used to working in a team and can make you less selfish.
2. Increase your practical skills
While undertaking voluntary work many new skills can be learnt. This can help in your career advancement or to help in a change of career. Learning more about fundraising and how that money is used as well as how supportive charities have the ability to counsel people gives the opportunity to boost your skillset. Many charities fund courses for their volunteers which can help both in their role and in their personal life.
Volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. It can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community.
3. Increase your social skills
While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests and helping others in need or maybe just making cups of tea! Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.
4. Volunteering gives fulfilment and is fun
Although volunteering can be hard work sometimes, it generates a tremendous sense of achievement and fulfilment when you feel that you have made a difference to somebody – however large or small that might be. When working with other volunteers or paid employees, a great deal of fun can be had – maybe when in a fundraising event or just in the day to day business.
5. Care for your mind
Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. You are aiding others and the community which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity; the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
Reducing the risk of depression is another important benefit of volunteering. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and it helps you develop a solid support system, which can protect you against stress.
6. Stay physically healthy
Volunteering is good for your health at any age. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.
7. Volunteering enables charities to use funds for those in need
Voluntary organisations need to have paid employees but the huge number of volunteers in all charitable organisations means that the number of employees is kept to a minimum. This ensures that the majority of funds can be used where the charity needs it most – helping the sick, the vulnerable, medical research etc. Without volunteers then the charity sector would not achieve the amazing results that it currently does.
8. Keep your personal life
All volunteers are hugely prized by their organisations and they are extremely grateful for the work that is undertaken. Being a non paid member of the community it means that if as a volunteer you are unable to attend one day or wish to go on holiday than there is no problem with running it past your boss or the HR director! Your personal life can come first and you can remain in the work environment without employee constraints. Obviously a volunteer must be dedicated and inform the charity if unable to attend and not let them down but it does give you a certain freedom.
9. Help others
This is what it is all about. All voluntary organisations have a mission to aid others. Without volunteers this would not happen and every day thousands are helped by volunteers in all areas of society, for so many different reasons.
10. Time for change
Ultimately volunteering is a fantastic thing to undertake for so many different reasons. While learning new skills can be beneficial to many, it’s not a requirement for a fulfilling volunteer experience. Bear in mind that the most valuable skills you can bring to any volunteer effort are compassion, an open mind, a willingness to do whatever is needed, and a positive attitude. Why not step up to the challenge?
Discover graduate schemes in charity and social enterprise to kick-start your career in this rewarding sector.