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Why Should I Volunteer

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 6 minute read

However, not every volunteer work is entirely unpaid. It is usual for criminal and civil verdicts to include community service requirements, often in place of monetary fines.

Consider the bright side if a judge has mandated that you volunteer, you might gain valuable experience while helping others and maybe even discover a new passion for service.

There are many positive aspects of volunteering, and even if no one is making you do it, you should consider doing it. The positive effects of volunteering on one’s physical and emotional health, one’s profession, and one’s financial stability are just some of the reasons why so many people give back. 

If you’ve been on the fence about making volunteering a regular part of your life, seeing all of these perks in one spot may be the final push you need to take the plunge.

Why Do You Give? Potential Advantages of Volunteering

Volunteering can help you in numerous ways, including in ways you may not have expected, such as advancing your professional standing. Volunteering can improve your life and prospects in many ways, regardless of where you do it or who you help. 

These are some of the best reasons to help others whenever possible.

1. Tax Treatment that is Favorable for Qualified Expenses

Volunteers who expect their work to count toward their tax obligations as an itemized deduction are always dismayed to hear otherwise. Nonprofit Quarterly provides an in-depth analysis of the IRS’s thinking.

The good news is that if you volunteer for a 501(c)(3) charity, the vast majority of your expenses will be tax deductible. 

The following are examples of frequent deductions linked to volunteering that may be recognizable to you if you are a freelancer, solopreneur, or small business owner who already deducts business expenditures from your gross income:

  • Expenses related to getting to and from the volunteer site, including gas (deductible at $0.14 per mile in 2019) and housing (deductible at actual cost) in disaster areas.
  • Costs associated with telephony
  • Materials for the workplace
  • Uniforms or other specialized attire
  • Products or materials not supplied by the group
  • Consumption of food and drink not supplied by the organization (deductible at 50% of total cost).

2. Building Social Connections & New Friends

Group volunteer work is a great way to meet people and develop meaningful relationships with them. Volunteering has the potential to generate a positive feedback loop in which you meet like-minded people who introduce you to other volunteer opportunities.

The power of volunteering to bring people together is something I have personally experienced. After relocating with my wife, we rapidly made friends with two other board members who were around our age on the board of our neighborhood association. 

If we had remained to ourselves, we might not have run into them. We’ve become friendly enough to greet each other on the street and hang together at neighborhood events like block parties.

3. Obtaining or Enhancing Professional Experience and Skills

The perfect volunteer opportunity can enhance your credentials without breaking the bank, especially when compared to the expense of a formal degree program or continuing education course. 

It’s a great way to maintain your abilities sharp even if you’re out of work and to demonstrate to potential employers that you’re actively seeking work.

Even while I don’t consider the part-time research summarization work I do for a nonprofit refugee rights organization to be a resume-builder, I know that it would be useful if I ever decided to apply for other employment in the charity sector. 

I don’t know what the going rate is for such work, and it’s highly unlikely that I could persuade someone to hire me without some sort of relevant background.

4. Establishing New Professional Relationships

Volunteering can help you build relationships that go beyond the superficial. Without the stress and awkwardness of traditional business networking, volunteering is a terrific method to make connections that can help you develop your career. 

Two of the people I know personally have turned their volunteer work at the same nonprofit into paid employment, and at least one of them met their future boss while volunteering for a different group.

It could be beneficial to seek any professional opportunities, regardless of whether or not they lead to full-time employment. 

In my community, boards of neighborhood associations often turn to consultants with whom members of the board already have positive working connections when they need assistance with long-term planning, accounting, or legal services. 

There is nothing unethical about the technique, and it is obviously useful for consultants with strong connections, as long as any specific consultant is the best person for the job at hand and is not limited by ethical conflicts.

5. Acquiring Physical and Mental Health Advantages

This is supported by credible scientific evidence: Volunteering can improve your health in a number of ways, including by providing you with a regular opportunity to get some exercise and meet new people. Volunteers were found to have lower rates of depression symptoms in a large European study compared to those who did not engage in volunteer work.

High blood pressure was linked to volunteer work in an analysis of older persons conducted by Carnegie Mellon. Those who volunteered a minimum of 200 hours in the previous year had a lower risk of developing hypertension compared to those who volunteered less frequently or didn’t volunteer at all.

More so than lonely initiatives like my research summaries, volunteer options that foster social connection, such as chairing a parent group at your kid’s school or helping on a Habitat for Humanity home build, are likely to boost mental health. Physical health is more likely to improve in the context of more physically demanding activities, such as the Habitat for Humanity construction.

However, I must caution you Altruism was revealed to be a predictor of mortality risk in a study conducted on the Wisconsin Longitudinal Survey in 2012. 

A lower mortality rate was seen among study participants who volunteered out of altruism compared to those whose motivations were less altruistic across the four-year study period. It’s worth noticing, however, the reason is unclear. Be sure your motivations are sound if you hope to see positive health effects from your volunteer work.

6. Achieving Personal Satisfaction

Some volunteers value the social side more than the health benefits, but this is only one example of how people’s definitions of personal fulfillment can vary widely. Others find solace in helping those less fortunate or making a concrete difference in their communities.

Others try to find meaning in life by serving others. This is especially true with older volunteers who are either partially or fully retired, as well as those who are temporarily unemployed. 

Motivated volunteers may uncover dormant skills or personality traits that prove useful in other contexts, boosting their confidence and even opening up new opportunities for personal or professional growth.

Bottom Line

I don’t give out nearly as much of my time as I should to charity. Even when I was doing a lot of volunteer work, it never amounted to more than a few hours a week. Because of my new responsibilities as a father, I haven’t been able to make any significant efforts to help others. 

These days, rather than donning a uniform and heading out into the field on behalf of a cause I care about, I am much more inclined to make a tiny financial contribution.

Nonetheless, I do believe that I have contributed to my community through my volunteer work over the years. I’ve served on the board of a community group that works to improve the lives of the city’s most disadvantaged residents, taught English to newly arrived refugees, and maintained a network of hiking trails. When I consider my hard work, I feel proud.

It’s not necessary to sacrifice a great deal of your time or skills in order to help others. It doesn’t matter how much time you can devote; even an hour a week will help.

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