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Why I Will Always Be a Volunteer

Giving your time & skills is a great way to support the causes you care about. Here's my 4 question guide to figuring out where I want to volunteer!

I have been volunteering for as long as I can remember, but it has made a huge impact on my life in college, and now in my 20s.

Volunteering is defined as freely offering to do something, and truthfully, volunteering looks different for everyone. For a lot of people, it involves manual labor like building a house for Habit for Humanity. For others, it involves serving on a board of a non-profit. Both of these things are a great way to spend your time.

For me, it is a combination of a lot of different things. I serve on boards, but I also work directly with teenagers and have recently started delivering meals for Meals on Wheels.

What is the point of volunteering? Why should you spend your time volunteering with organizations or people in your community?

Here are a few benefits of volunteering that I have experienced in my life:

  • Volunteering your time makes you feel like you have more time. Wharton professor Cassie Mogilner said her research has found that people who volunteer feel like they have more time. Her research also found that people who donate to charity feel richer.
  • It has helped me develop new skills.  In addition to leadership skills, I have learned a lot of other things through volunteering that I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to learn at work.
  • Volunteering your experience helps build your experience. Volunteering and learning new skills can help you in your professional life, and can make you appear more attractive to a potential employer.
  • You meet a wider range of people. I have met a lot of great people through my volunteer work that have allowed me to expand my network and meet even more people.

I really love volunteering, and I personally find that I get different benefits from the different types of volunteering I do. When I do Meals on Wheels, I feel like I am helping people that can’t really help themselves. But when I volunteer at the Junior League, I feel like I am learning and increasing my skills. Each of them are valuable, but they are different.

In addition to the love of volunteering, it really has impacted my life thus far. I feel like my life is fuller because of the time I spend helping others. It also helps to round my life out. Instead of just going to work and going home (which I still enjoy doing), I get to go to work then volunteer and help other people. As a single person, I think it is great to have something like a hobby that you can really focus on.

When I graduated college and moved to the city I live in now, I knew I wanted to volunteer, but I didn’t know what that would look like. Here are a few things I had to think about:

  1. Time. How much time did my schedule allow me to contribute and how much time did I want to contribute. I wanted to still have the ability to have a full social life and have some down time to relax.
  2. Passion. What issues am I passionate about and what did I want to spend time on. I listened to a podcast recently that defined passion as the intersection of interest and engagement. What do you really enjoy doing? What issues do you care about? The answers to those questions helped me to decide what organizations I would volunteer with.
  3. Enjoyment. Although volunteering is about others, you want to be doing something you enjoy. I don’t really love manual labor, so it didn’t make sense to spend a lot of time doing that. Make sure you are actually able to find some enjoyment in what you do. Winston Churchill said “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
  4. Skills. This is two-fold. Are there skills you already have that you can contribute to an organization? I have a lot of experience working with teenagers, so volunteering with the teens at my church was great for me and aligned with my skills. Are there skills you want to develop or spend time on? I enjoy fundraising, but don’t do it a lot and want to be better. So that is what I do with the Junior League.

Answering these questions will help you decide where you should volunteer and what a organizations would be a great fit for you.

Special note about financial donations: As much as non-profit organizations need your time, they also need your money. If there are causes you care about, think about donating your money in addition to your time, if you can.

I will be a life-long volunteer. I know it may change some with my life changes (like having children), but it will be something I always do. Find an organization that supports a cause you care about and volunteer with them.

Are you already volunteering? If so, let us know where!

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

About the Author

Jessica Sharp

Jessica Sharp is passionate about empowering underserved and minority communities, diverse representation, and brain education. Jessica is the Founder and Chief Educator of Sharp Brain Consulting which works with public service agencies to provide education about the brain and its effect on organizational outcomes. Additionally, she is on the leadership team of Meals on Wheels in her town of Greenville, SC. She is completing a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Missouri. Upon her completion, she will attend William James College to obtain a Doctorate of Psychology. Follow her on twitter at @sharpjes.


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