April is National Volunteer Month. If you’re a volunteer who helps make our community a better place to live and work, thank you. And if you’re not yet an active volunteer, what are you waiting for? Here are my top 10 reasons why everyone should volunteer:
- Experience a change of scenery. When you leave your office or home to help those with cancer, volunteer at an animal shelter or champion people with developmental disabilities, you can open your mind to new ideas and a change of perspective.
- Better understand your community’s challenges. As a board member of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, I’m constantly learning more about green space and the value of community engagement. And from various board positions I’ve learned about governance and finance. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, “Oh the things that you’ll learn.”
- Direct your talents for public good. Take what you’re good at and apply it with purpose. Whether you’re a gardener, a writer, an accountant or <fill in the blank>, there’s a not-for-profit out there that can benefit from your talents.
- Gain new skills. Stretch yourself. Try your hand at coaching young children. Write an article for a newsletter. Help a not-for-profit update its bylaws. Through volunteering, you can polish your skills – or learn new ones.
- Make professional connections. From our agency’s perspective, community service is not only the right thing to do, but also enlightened self-interest. When our professionals are out in the community applying their skills and demonstrating follow-through, this enhances our reputation and, on occasion, translates into new business leads.
- Develop new friendships. I’ve met some of my closest friends through volunteering. With one in four Americans volunteering, and one in three employed people volunteering, there are many terrific people to meet.
- Enhance your resume. When professionals come to my office interested in a job in communications – but who have too little experience in the field – I encourage them to seek a small not-for-profit that would welcome their emerging skills in a volunteer capacity.
- Continue the family tradition, or start a new one. My parents are volunteers, so I’m following in their footsteps. If your family didn’t make time to volunteer, why not start a new tradition?
- Improve your health. Research shows that those who embrace volunteering have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life. That’s quite a bonus.
- Make a difference. The nine reasons above are mostly ways that community service can help you. But the number one reason to volunteer isn’t about you at all – it’s about others. It’s about giving back to our community and the people in it.
Not sure where to start? Try close to home at your place of worship or your child’s school. Explore the list of United Way agencies. Consider attending events like Get on Board that connect volunteers with not-for-profits. Follow your passion, whether it’s public art, children or literacy. Ask a friend. Use Google.
How you do it is up to you. What matters is that you do something.