Last Updated on December 13, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
The many benefits of volunteering make it an activity we should all try to include in our lives. Volunteering can help teens and adults with social and emotional skills as well as create connections that extend far into the future.
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Volunteering builds relationships and connections that cross age, race, socio-economic divides, cultures and so much more. It leads to better health and a sense of meaning as you contribute to the lives of others. Helping others leads to a natural sense of accomplishment and reduced stress levels.
As a person who struggled with social skills for most of my life, I have always loved volunteering because of the way it helped me understand people.
Volunteering gave me a close up opportunity to observe the interactions between people, to ask questions and to feel seen and heard. Volunteering has also let serve others in ways that felt doable…and it let me try new things!
What Are The Benefits of Volunteering?
While many people volunteer as a way to help others, there is no doubt that volunteering offers benefits to the person giving of their time and energy. Both young people and older volunteers have surprising benefits from community service. It offers physical activity, social interaction and life satisfaction. Investing in other people is the kind that makes a real difference.
1. Volunteering Builds Relationships With Like-Minded People
One of the best things about volunteering is the opportunity to meet like-minded people who shared the same interests and goals. Each volunteer experience brings together people who might never hang out normally and builds connections and friendships that can extend beyond the volunteer experience.
2. Volunteering Combats Loneliness
In a world where people are more connected than ever, they are also more isolated and lonely than ever. If you are lonely, volunteering gets you out in the community and helping others. It also builds connections in underserved communities where people who may live alone get to talk to the people who came to serve in their neighborhood.
3. Volunteering is a Way to Practice Social Skills
Oftentimes, our social circles are mostly limited to people who look like us…same age, similar socio-economics and similar stage in life. But volunteering brings us into contact with people from different circles and allows us to practice talking to people who have a very different life experience.
I’ve found that one of the best social skills we can practice while volunteering is learning to ask good questions. It can be surprisingly hard to ask people questions who are different than you. But volunteering is generally done in a very positive environment, so it is a great place to practice with all your new connections.
4. Serving Is a Great Way to Make Friends
I struggled to make friends growing up. It just never came easy. I didn’t like small talk (and still don’t). I always found it easier to talk to people when I was working alongside them. Maybe it’s because we didn’t need to talk the whole time…we could work in easy silence. Or maybe it was because those connections were based on common ground, but volunteering created a space where I could build friendships based on similar interests.
As an added benefit, many of the friendships and connections made while serving will be with people from different walks of life. High school students might serve alongside retirees in a local soup kitchen. Or business professionals might serve in a food bank alongside someone who is unemployeed.
5. Volunteering Allows You To Impact Others
Most of us want to live meaningful lives that we can be proud of. But that doesn’t happen on accident. When we CHOOSE to live INTENTIONALLY, we are also CHOOSING IMPACT. When we volunteer our time, we have the opportunity to change the trajectory of other people’s lives.
It is easy to think that our small contribution doesn’t really make a difference. But we often under estimate how significant an encouraging word is. A few bags of groceries can give hope to someone with empty cupboards. And toys at Christmas bring joy to struggling families. Little things matter.
6. Volunteering Promotes and Supports Causes You Care About
My dad likes to say, “There are over 7 billion people on the planet and we are all different.” When I think about how unique each person is, it makes sense that we have many different causes that are important to us. One person may feel passionately about educatation and someone else about the environment. Volunteering is a great way to support the causes that are important to you.
7. It Allows You To Contribute To Your Community
Giving back to your community makes the whole group stronger. When we volunteer, we cross paths with people we would not normally meet. We see the needs of others and we recognize that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.
8. Volunteering Can Help You Learn New Skills
One of the things about volunteering…especially for teens, is the unique way it lets them learn new skills. For example, someone with no skills in the trades who volunteers for Habit for Humanity will have the opportunity to learn some skills related to carpentry or building. This can be so valuable just for the exposure to new things.
In life, when a young person wants a job, they often lack the experience they need. We always say its the problem of the cart and the horse. Without the experience you don’t get a job, but where do you get experience if no one will hire you without any experience.”
Volunteering is a great place to get “experience” for something you want to learn that would possibly apply to a future job.
9. Volunteering develops leadership and communication skills
Like getting a job, volunteering takes you out of our comfort zone and put you with other people you may not know as well. In order to accomplish the tasks and goals at hand, you must communicate and take initiative.
Communication skills might be learning how to explain a task. Or you might need to clarify directions to talk to a person with more authority to get permission to do something. In most cases, it is impossible to “volunteer” without actually communicating!!
In the process of communicating, you will find places where a task needs done and you can take the lead to make it happen. In volunteer situations, there are often too many tasks and not enough hands so there is plenty of opportunity to take the lead!
10. Volunteering Can Improve Mental Health
When people are isolated, they can become focused solely on their own problems and struggles. Volunteering puts you in a space with other people and allows you to give back and help others while also receiving positive input into your own life.
After going on a service trip to volunteer in another city or country, I’ve often heard people say, “I received so much more than I ever gave on this trip.” That is often the case…we receive more than we give.
11. Volunteering Can Improve Your Physical Health
In the Summer, my daughter and her cross country team mates run on local trails. I go along for a walk! As I’m walking, I’ve noticed groups of people coming into our Metro parks to do trail cleanup. They are groups of volunteers who trim back brush from the paths, clean out invasive plants and generally keep the popular park in good repair.
The people who are volunteering are up and about, moving, talking and working which is much better for us physically than sitting around! In fact, one study found that adults over the age of 50 who volunteer for at least 200 hours per year are more likely to have lower blood pressure!
12. Volunteering Can Change Other People’s Lives
Volunteering brings people from different sectors of society into the same space. People who might never cross paths suddenly do. And with that comes a huge opportunity to change people’s lives. That can mean a discouraged person is encouraged…or it can mean that someone struggling financially meets a person who can help them improve their job skills to increase their income.
13. Volunteering Can Expose You To Other Cultures
I’ll never forget a medical service trip I went on to Honduras when I was 17. I was traveling with a doctor, a dentist and several other medical professionals to remote villages where people often lacked basic medical care. Every element of that trip was shocking and eye opening to me as an American teen.
We drove past slums with houses made out of corrigated metal sheeting and other random supplies on our way to the outpost where we would canoe down a narrow river for almost 2 hours to reach a village not accessible by vehicle. There we found the most joyful children in a beautiful small community on the coast of the Atlantic ocean. And there the doctor and dentist treated medical concerns, while others of us gave out vitamins and then played with the children.
It was HOT and the bugs were BIG but the kids were happy and enjoying life without all the technology and consumerism so common in America. That made an impression on me.
Later traveled up a mountain on donkeys to another remote village to meet people living in small homes with dirt floors that they shared with people…and chickens and pigs. The bathrooms were the outhouse out back and again, there was no access to the village by roads. Life was hard but their community was tight.
I’m forever thankful to have learned from those people what I could not easily learn at home in my suburban community.
14. Volunteering Builds Empathy and Compassion
It’s hard to understand people sometimes unless you can walk in their shoes. Volunteering allows us to meet the needs of others up close and personal. And while we are doing that, developing compassion and empathy are a natural byproduct.
Volunteering teaches us that we all need people to support us in life.
15. Volunteering Can Build Community
Non-profit organizations naturally attract groups of people with similar interests and callings in life. One of the easiest ways to make friends and build a community is do spend time with people who care about the same things you care about. This is true while volunteering…but its really true anywhere. There are community organizations that exist for a lot of different reasons: education, jobs, resources, helping felons, helping the homeless, building homes, cleaning the environment and so much more!
16. Volunteering Can Make Your Life Meaningful
Many of us have jobs just to pay the bills. And paying the bills is honorable. But sometimes that 9-5 job doesn’t feel meaningful. Volunteering can fill the gap for many people who want to serve others in a meaningful, tangible way. Many older adults find a great sense of purpose during their retirement years when they no longer need that 40 hour work week and can focus on things they really care about.
17. Volunteer Opportunities Are A Great Way to Try New Things
One of the great things about volunteering is that you don’t have to have a fancy resume to serve. While you may have valuable skills that the organization can use, you don’t have to be a professional.
Habitat for Humanity lets regular ordinary people help build houses. You are not disqualified because you are not a general contractor!
So if there are things you want to try…volunteering can be a great way to do that!
18. Volunteering Can Be a Way to Combine Service and Travel
Not all volunteering is done in your local community. Traveling to do service projects, storm cleanup or working for the Peace Corps can be a meaningful way to combine volunteer activities with travel.
19. Volunteering Can Teach You Things A Book Never Could
In the United States, we have great educational opportunities. Parents can choose from public, private and homeschool options.
20. Volunteering Develops Leadership Skills
Many people have hidden leadership skills that are waiting to be used once they find a cause they believe in that can use the skills they have. I used to think that being a leader meant you had to have some magical set of skills. But that isn’t true.
A leader is simple a person who takes initiative to lead a group of people in some kind of collective task. Having the motivation to be the one leading the charge can be developed as a volunteer. Volunteer leaders are often the ones with the most motivation for the cause and not necessarily the ones with the best resume, most education, or life experience.
21. Volunteering Offers Networking Opportunities
Growing up, I had no concept of the idea of networking. I was very introverted and didn’t understand that cultivating relationships as we move through life can offer many benefits! When you are volunteering you have the chance to meet people outside your normal circles. By volunteering, you not only build a support network for other people, you also build your own network of relationships!
22. Volunteering Can Lead to Career Development
While most people don’t volunteer for career benefits, volunteer efforts can help develop your professional life. That can happen because of new skills learned, new relationships and also the chance to do meaningful work that makes a positive impact. Some individuals change their career path after doing volunteer work in an area they support.
23. Volunteering Can Increase Your Self Confidence
One of the secrets of social skills for people who struggle is to do activities with other people that you enjoy. If you are working alongside other people doing things you both enjoy, it is SO MUCH EASIER to talk to new people as you already have common interests in the work you are doing.
Beyond having great conversations, volunteering builds confdence because there is often a lot of positive feedback from the organization. My 13 year old son had to do required volunteer hours for school. He chose to work at a local science center for their Saturday Science program. The program was full of young kids.
On the days he volunteered, he got to lead a small group of kids, play with them outside and help keep the peace. The kids loved him and he came home with the biggest smile talking about how much he loved it. The following summer, he got a part time job at the science center so he spend more time doing what he loved and get paid to do it!
24. Volunteering Can Help With Time Management
It doesn’t seem like adding another thing to your plate could help with time management. However, it can be a great way to develop new skills and practice your current ones. As you volunteer, you will learn new tasks and overcome new challenges. This process will require learning how to plan, prioritize and solve problems.
When my kids have gone on international service trips, there is a TON of planning and a lot of deadlines involved. Preparing to travel with a group involves fallowing processes, meeting deadlines and hurdling all kinds of little problems that pop up.
25. Volunteering is Fun!
Most of us spend far too much time focusing on our own lives and our own problems. When we invest in the lives of people, we find that giving and helping other people is fun on top of the host of benefits working alongside fellow volunteers.
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Sarah McCubbin, founder of Ten Minute Momentum, is dedicated to helping parents confidently parent their kids by teaching life skills, social skills and leadership skills. As a child she was the kid that never quite fit in and is on a mission to help others understand the building blocks we all need to be successful adults. She lives in Ohio with her husband Mike, and 9 kids ranging in age from 5 to 21 where they use homeschool, private school and public schools for their kids education!