Guest blog written by social media volunteer Melissa.
Not too long ago I volunteered with my sorority alumni group at the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle. We had prepped a taco bar dinner for the families and everyone was eager to help out and make the meal delicious. I love cooking and had a wonderful experience.
After we'd cooked and cleaned, the house manager stopped by to thank us. While we were chatting she shared that the house doesn't get many volunteers in the off season. Unsure of what she meant, I asked her to explain. According to her, many people think to give during the holidays, but there is a steep decline in volunteers during the rest of the year—volunteers are needed all year long.
While people tend to feel more charitable during the "giving season" there are plenty of reasons to volunteer throughout the year.
Volunteering makes you feel like you have more time and money
Even if it's only a few hours, volunteering makes you feel like you have more time. Because you can give back to others or a cause you care about, you feel like your time is better spent. Millennials have often been accused of being self-absorbed thanks to social media, so when I can volunteer my spare time I not only feel like I'm breaking that stereotype, but that I'm also doing something that makes me feel better about myself.
Similarly, according to Next Avenue those who donate to charities also feel wealthier. According to The NonProfit Hub millennial volunteers are more likely to donate money than their time. While money is helpful, I'd rather do something to make a difference. I want to know my time and energy is actually doing some good. Plus, with money you don't always know where or what it's actually funding.
So what is your volunteering time worth? Can you put a price on volunteer hours? According to the Independent Sector one hour of volunteering in 2016 in Washington state was equivalent to a $30.04/hr donation! Since I usually volunteer a couple hours at a time, this makes me feel even better because I'm actually giving more than I'd be able to monetarily.
Volunteering helps you build new skills and gain experience
As a young professional many people told me that volunteering was a good way to gain experience or build on my skills. And this is so true! There are many volunteer organizations that rely on skilled volunteers to help them. (This doesn't mean you should work for free if a company can't pay you though!)
I love to write and have some experience updating websites. Because of these skills I am able to volunteer a couple hours a month at the Eastside Community Aid Thrift Shop, whose profits are donated back into local community non-profit programs. Not only have I been able to volunteer my skills, but I have become a more confident writer and enjoy updating webpages. Plus, I can add this to my resume. Win-win!
You'd be surprised what skills you can use to help volunteer! My Seattle ADPi Alumni Association has members that are big Disney fans. We use this passion to host movie nights at the Ronald McDonald House, providing snacks and a fun night for families staying there. We also love celebrating holidays. A couple times throughout the year our alumni association meets up with the local UW chapter and puts together treat bags for children at the Ronald McDonald House. Most recently we created Valentines and Halloween treat bags.
Everyone has skills that they can volunteer in their local community.
Volunteering leads to better health
If feeling better about yourself and working on your skill set wasn't enough, volunteering also leads to a healthier life. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life compared to those who do not volunteer.
An article from the HuffPost, seconded this research stating that most people feel mentally and physically better after volunteering. They also shared staggering statistics from the United Health Group about how volunteering benefits your health:
Whether you're unsure of which skills you can share or feel like you don't have the time or resources, know that you are valuable to volunteer organizations.
If you'd like to volunteer with the ECA Thrift Shop, click our volunteer link. It's good for you and for us!
When I’m volunteering at ECA Thrift Shop, I spend a lot of time doing things like sorting and pricing clothing, organizing merchandise, and restocking. I enjoy doing these things, but sometimes I get bored doing the same things over and over, and on some days, I lose sight of why I’m doing it. I wonder whether there is something else I should be doing with my time.
But then I see a video like this one about Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, which is one of the local charities that ECA supports.
It is a wonderful reminder of how important it is to keep doing what I’m doing – working with the other volunteers at ECA Thrift Shop to prepare and sell the donated goods provided by so many of you – so that Little Bit can keep making such a huge difference in the lives of the children who go there. If you watch it, I think you’ll see what I mean.
Susan is a frequent volunteer at Eastside Community Aid Thrift Shop, where she sorts, prices, and stocks merchandise to her heart's content. Before retirement, she owned and operated a consignment shop for women's plus size clothing in Seattle. Through trial and error and talking with customers, she learned a thing or two. An avid "thrift shopper," Susan loves to buy clothing, especially when she gets good quality and value for her money.
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