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5 Reasons You Can’t Afford NOT to Find Volunteer Opportunities

  • April 21, 2024April 21, 2024
A typical day as a volunteer with Vecinos Unidos.

We’re all busy – constantly. There’s barely enough time for a full night’s sleep, so how are you supposed to fit anything else into your busy schedule? Sure, you’d like to give back to your community, but you can’t give time that you don’t have. You may also be familiar with the warm feeling that can come from helping others, but did you know there are a lot of other ways that volunteer opportunities can benefit you as a volunteer? Volunteer opportunities provide so many benefits, from providing chances for connection, serving as meaningful family activities, letting you take action instead of doomscrolling, boosting your career, and improving your physical and emotional well being – you can’t afford not to make time for them.

1. Build Connections with Volunteer Opportunities

In the world of social media, video calls, and online dating, there’s often little motivation to seek connection in the real world. Why should you? You can connect with your friends and family from the comfort of your couch and without worrying about what to wear or how your hair looks. While the ability to connect virtually with those that live far away is a great technological advancement, these connections are not the same as in-person meetups.

There are a lot of reasons that virtual connections are less scary than in-person ones, and it can be hard to know where to go to make new friends, especially as an adult. Volunteer opportunities can be a great place for making new friends or just for the chance to chat with the same people every week in-person. You know that the people there care about the same cause as you, so you have a built in topic to get those first conversations started!

You never know who you might meet or what opportunities could arise from the connections you make through volunteer opportunities. Whether it’s getting an additional reason to leave the house after retirement, having people to chat with about the cause you’re volunteering for regularly, or making new friends that you can also do other activities with, the value of connections built through volunteer opportunities is endless.

2. Find Volunteer Opportunities for the Whole Family

Does this sound familiar: on Mondays you have to pick the kids up after school and you’re in a hurry because your daughter has dance at 4:00 on one side of town and your son has soccer at 4:30 on the other side of town, and they both end at 6:00? It’s so hard to squeeze quality family time into a schedule like that. After all, you want to be sure your kids are involved in plenty of activities or they’ll never get into Harvard! But what if there was an activity that would look great on their college applications that you could do together as a family?

That’s right – you don’t have to choose between college prep activities and family time, volunteer opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, and there are options out there that are good for all ages. High schoolers often need a certain number of volunteer hours for honor societies and other memberships anyway, so why not bring mom, dad, and little sibling along while they’re getting those hours?

Along with wanting your kids to get into good colleges, you probably also want them to be kind people. Volunteer opportunities let you spend quality time with your kids while doing good for your community and nurture that kindness in them starting at a young age. They also give kids a chance to face challenges and grow from them, or even to try things that they never would’ve tried otherwise. And if you’re volunteering together, you get to see it all happen.

3. Take Action with Volunteer Opportunities

It’s the little things that remind us that what we do matters.

Watching the news these days can make you feel like the world is falling apart around you, with constant headlines about things like war and political unrest popping up daily. Have you ever wanted to be a part of a solution for all of these problems in the world but you had no idea where to start and felt completely helpless? I’ve been there; that’s exactly how I felt in 2020 watching the events of the Black Lives Matter protests as a pandemic raged around me. It can really make you feel like your life is almost pointless.

In many cases, anxiety is our bodies telling us to do something. That’s why many of the same physiological symptoms of anxiety appear in cases of emergency: rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and shaking hands. If you were in the jungle and you saw a tiger, you would experience all of these things as your body was screaming at you to RUN. It’s the same with anxiety, but since the things you see on the news are harder – or sometimes impossible – to take action on, your anxiety can fester.

It’s also important to remember that you cannot take action for every cause – there are way too many! But you can choose one cause that is important to you and take action on it by finding volunteer opportunities that work for your life. Maybe that’s volunteering at Vecinos Unidos once a week tutoring children for an hour and a half, or maybe it’s volunteering at a soup kitchen once a month, or even volunteering your time virtually or for just one single event for an organization. There are enough volunteer opportunities out there that you can find one that works for you and calm your anxiety by doing something about it.

4. Develop Skills through Volunteer Opportunities

Mastering patience and communication through volunteering at Vecinos Unidos.

Have you ever wanted to learn a new skill or try out a different role, but you didn’t know where to start or couldn’t get someone to hire you? Volunteer opportunities can be a great way to bridge that gap! You may not get paid for this work, but that means the barrier to entry is much lower.

For instance, if you’re in college studying marketing or looking to make a career change to copywriting, finding a small nonprofit that needs help with their social media or blog can give you a chance to build a portfolio to show potential employers or future clients. Just look at me – I’m not a professional writer, but Vecinos Unidos needed help with their communications and I enjoy writing, so I offered to help!

It also gives you a low-risk chance to try out different strategies within the guidelines the nonprofit gives you. You can develop and demonstrate many different types of skills such as business development, fundraising, leadership/management, design, programming, and much more! You can even request to create your own role if the nonprofit doesn’t have one that you’re interested in. The worst they can do is say no!

While these experiences make great resume boosters, what can be even more valuable for your career is the chance to network. In the most basic way, you’ll be able to use the leaders of the nonprofit that you build relationships with as references. But outside of that, you never know who you’ll meet when you volunteer! Maybe you meet your future manager or even your future business partner. If you put in the effort to develop a relationship with people you volunteer with, you’ll be surprised at the opportunities that will come your way.

5. Live Longer Thanks to Volunteer Opportunities

This is where all of the previously mentioned benefits from volunteer opportunities culminate into one grand benefit for those that volunteer: they live longer. This could be from the increase in social connections, the mental stimulation, or the sense of satisfaction that people feel when they volunteer. We may never truly understand how specifically volunteering creates such huge health benefits, but study after study has found that people who volunteer are happier and healthier, mentally and physically.

With how busy life can be these days, it may seem overwhelming to find the time to volunteer among all of your other commitments; however, you don’t need to give away a lot of time to see the benefits of volunteering. Studies have found that people who volunteer two to three hours per week see the most benefits. That’s less time than most of us spend on social media! Finding the time to prioritize volunteer opportunities without neglecting the other important areas of your life is a great way to boost your own health and happiness while also helping others.

You really can’t afford to miss out on the incredible benefits you get from volunteer opportunities. At Vecinos Unidos, we’re always looking for great volunteers to help us further our mission, but no nonprofit is right for everyone! We hope that you’ll follow your passion and find the volunteer opportunities that are right for you.

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