So, You Are Thinking of Becoming a Volunteer? Here Are Some Things to Consider
I was with a board member recently when he announced that he was planning on retiring from his full-time job in two months. He told me he would concentrate on a new career, which was being a full-time volunteer. He stated he would work with five nonprofits going forward, including mine. His comments made me think of the baby boomers who are reaching age 65 and may consider retirement and volunteerism. For the next 20 years in the U.S., this represents an average of 10,000 people per day!
According to the 2015 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report titled “Volunteering in the United States,” there were approximately 62.6 million people who volunteered for an organization at least once between September 2014 and September 2015.
Specific statistics denote the following:
- Women volunteered more than men.
- Individuals between the ages of 35 and 54 were most likely to volunteer.
- Married people volunteered at a higher rate than single individuals.
- Individuals with higher levels of education were more likely to volunteer.
- Employed individuals volunteered more than unemployed individuals.
- The main organization for volunteers was religious in nature.
- The activities with the highest amount volunteers were collecting, distributing and serving of food, followed by teaching, fundraising and general labor.
According to the Triton Link article titled “Community Service: Top 10 Reasons to Volunteer,” these are the top 10 reasons that should help you make up your mind if you are thinking of volunteering:
- You make a difference as every person counts.
- Volunteering encourages civic responsibility.
- You get a chance to give back to the community you care about.
- You learn a lot and discover hidden talents, government functions and community needs.
- Volunteering strengthens your community.
- It promotes personal growth and self-esteem and allows you to understand community needs.
- It brings people together, unites people and builds camaraderie and teamwork.
- Volunteers gain professional experience and can test potential professional careers.
- Volunteering saves resources and allows more money to be spent on local improvements.
- It’s good for you as it reduces stress and makes you healthier.
When thinking about becoming a volunteer, you should realize the pros and cons of volunteering. Wikihow.com provides insight through an article titled “How to Know When Not to Volunteer.” The article encourages volunteerism, but points out that there are times when an individual should consider not offering volunteer services.
Twelve key points raised in this article include:
- Stop offering to volunteer if you do not have the time.
- Decline if you are already overcommitted to volunteering.
- Avoid volunteer activities for which you do not have the temperament.
- Be careful of taking on volunteer work that can re-traumatize you or can hit too close to home.
- Be aware that there are certain stages in your life when volunteering is not a good option for you.
- Avoid volunteering for something just because a friend is volunteering.
- Don’t be bullied, coerced or co-opted into volunteering.
- Question authorities who seek to over-rely on volunteers.
- Find other ways to help out that do not zap your time, energy, finances or good will.
- Don’t risk your safety.
- Be wary of an organization that asks you to pay them in order to volunteer, especially if you are strapped for cash.
- Volunteering should not displace financial well-being.
On balance, the positives tremendously outweigh the negatives when considering volunteering. In the December issue of HelpGuide.Org, Jeanne Segal, PhD, and Lawrence Robinson authored an article titled “Volunteering and Its Surprising Benefits.” The authors note that volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes and the community, but the benefits can even be greater for the volunteer.
According to the article, volunteering creates a happiness effect and allows you to connect with others, is good for your mind and body, can advance your career and brings fun and fulfillment to your life. The article provides questions for potential volunteers to consider and sources for additional research.
So if you are thinking of becoming a volunteer, please do so. I am thrilled my retiring board member has chosen my organization to focus his full-time volunteer endeavors. When that time comes, my job will be to see that he has a great experience in this new role. I am certain he will!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.