Thinking about volunteering over the holidays? You’re not alone. According to Independent Sector, a national nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of charities, foundations, and corporations, an estimated 63 million Americans volunteered 8 billion hours last year. In Detroit, Gleaners Community Food Bank benefitted from more than 50,000 volunteer shifts that provided over 144,000 hours of work toward Gleaners mission.
There is no shortage of studies and surveys touting the benefits of volunteering.
Want to feel happy and healthier (without dieting); have fun while advancing your career; meet people from all walks of life; or learn a new skill without shelling out big bucks for the latest class? Behold the amazing benefits of volunteering!
“Doing Well by Doing Good” isn’t just a “social responsibility” slogan, it turns out “giving back” offers surprising benefits for individuals, companies and communities.
“We have an amazing variety of volunteer opportunities in all five counties we serve” said Theresa Wick, Gleaners Volunteer Manager. “We are extremely grateful for the help – Gleaners couldn’t do all that we do in the community without our volunteers. One of the greatest rewards is seeing so many people and companies come back year-after-year because they’ve had such great experiences.”
A Gallup poll shows that the number of U.S Employees that feel “engaged” (those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace) is only 32%.
However, companies that include volunteer opportunities as part of their Corporate Responsibility Program are not only more attractive to millennials interested in a solid work-life balance (76% of millennials view business as a force for positive social change); many employees feel the opportunity to show off their leadership skills and network with peers and superiors offers a potential path to advancement.
Volunteering as a “team” boosts morale, self-esteem and has proven to increase company loyalty.
Benefits Beyond the Workplace
The Corporation for National & Community Service’s comprehensive report The Health Benefits of Volunteering found a strong correlation between volunteering and health; people who volunteer “have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than people that do not volunteer.”
The study also reported that older volunteers are the most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering, largely because volunteering provides them with physical and social activity, as well as a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing.
“Volunteering a great way to meet new people, learn new skills and be better engaged in the community,” says Wick. “Gleaners has opportunities for all ages and everything from helping to sort and pack food, to working at our special events, advocating for hunger relief through our Speaker’s Bureau or assisting with cooking classes.”
Volunteers can share their expertise, hone their skills and even learn something new.
Looking to sharpen your oratory skills – many non-profits engage volunteers with opportunities to talk about their mission with civic organizations and community groups.
Regardless if you’re a skilled artist or a Picasso wannabe, many hunger relief organizations host Empty Bowls events and seek volunteers to use their artistic talents to create these special ceramics.
“Volunteering has not only expanded my interests into areas I never would have considered, like gardening, but also taught me about things I didn’t think would help me in the future. I’ve volunteered with Gleaners since I was in first grade — now I’m a part of organizations on campus involved with food law, policy and security. Without the experience of volunteering at Gleaners I never would have realized how interested I am in not just the tangible impact of volunteer work, but the larger systemic issues that Gleaners helps combat,” states Connor Rubin, lifelong volunteer and Law school student.
Everybody loves something good to eat.
Gleaners’ Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters™ program offers a fun and tasty opportunity for “foodies” and home-cooks alike.
Volunteers work with professional chefs and nutritionists to help children and adults learn about healthy food and how to create delicious dishes at home.
“The recipes are budget-minded and easy to follow. And because they are prepared in class, everyone is very enthusiastic about sampling their work,” says Wick.
- 92% of respondents agreed that volunteering improves employees’ broader professional skill sets and is an effective way to improve leadership skills.
- 89% of respondents believe companies who sponsor volunteer activities offer a better overall working environment than those who don’t.
- Organizations that increased employee engagement levels saw an 87% reduction in the probability of employee departure.
“I’ve learned that there are so many ways to give back,” said Tracey Zambeck, Michigan State University Regional Advancement Officer. “I’ve helped serve meals, sort donations and this year decided I wanted to host a party that could make an impact locally. My friends helped raise money for people that needed help, all while having a great night!”
Whether you sign up for an organized volunteer opportunity or create your own plan to give back, the rewards of volunteering are limitless, and the positive impact to organizations like Gleaners, cannot be overstated.
Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.