Why do we Volunteer?
For most people, life feels like it just keeps getting busier and busier. Yet some people choose to take time out of their busy schedules to volunteer. A 2012 study by Statistics Canada identified that approximately 50% of Canadians donate their time, accumulating more than 10 billion hours of volunteer time across Canada. So why do we volunteer? Several studies have identified the motivational factors, as well as personal and social benefits behind volunteering.
Motivations for Volunteering:
There are many reasons that people decide to volunteer their time. Statistics Canada interviewed thousands of volunteers to identify the key motivating factors for why people volunteer.
It turns out there is a great deal of personal benefits to be gained through volunteering. When asked, 2/3 of Canadian volunteers stated that volunteering provided them with an opportunity to enhance their social skills and personal knowledge. Volunteering has also been shown to improve an individual’s health and well-being.
Volunteering provides an opportunity to exercise personal skills and develop new ones, but we can’t forget the ‘warm fuzzies’ we feel after doing something nice. A 2001 study published by the American Sociological Association examined the relationship between volunteer work in the community and six aspects of persona well-being. These aspects were; happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health, and depression. Results from the study revealed that volunteer work enhanced all six aspects of well-being. A study by UC San Diego states that volunteering provides physical and mental rewards; specifically, volunteering reduces stress while making you healthier. Experts report that the processes involved in volunteering interrupt usual tension-producing patterns, thereby reducing stress. Volunteering often produces positive feelings such as optimism, joy, and control over one’s fate, which actually strengthen your immune system. A study by HelpGuide.org corroborates this information, adding that volunteering can also increase self-confidence, combat depression, and stay physically and mentally healthy.
Volunteer work has also operated as a valuable way to contribute to people’s education and career goals. Many young Canadians volunteer as part of their high school education, but this is also an opportunity to enhance one’s chances for post-secondary. Additionally, many university students volunteer as part of their practicum, or can use volunteer work to improve their chances of admittance into graduate school. Finally, nearly a quarter of all Canadian volunteers stated that volunteer work led them directly to their career.
Homelessness is a social problem, and it will take a whole society to make fix it. For many, volunteering is seen as an inherently altruistic act, done for the social good, or to enhance a pro-social cause. However; volunteering is also an act of community building that brings people together. More and more Canadians are volunteering as a way to meet new people and socialize with friends and family.
Every action we make is inherently political. People often volunteer because they believe in the cause, or want to make a positive change in the community. Many volunteers have either been personally impacted by the cause, or wish to give something back to an organization that has helped them in the past. Volunteering saves valuable resources, allowing the community or organization to spend more money on local improvements elsewhere. Most importantly, volunteering is an easy way to make a difference in the lives of others.
Volunteering benefits society at large and the individual by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens, while fostering opportunities for participation within a community. Additionally, volunteering provides a plethora of opportunities to practice skills and enhance ones well-being and health.
You make a difference!
“Charitable giving by Canadians.” (2012) Statistics Canada. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2012001/article/11637-eng.pdf
“Volunteering in Canada.” (2012) Mirellie Vezina and Susan Crompton. Statistics Canada. Canadian Social Trends. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2012001/article/11638-eng.htm
“Understanding Canadian Volunteers: Using the National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating to Build your Volunteer Program.” (2004) Norah McClintock. Canadian Center for Philanthropy. http://www.imaginecanada.ca/sites/default/files/www/en/giving/reports/understanding_volunteers.pdf
“Why Volunteer” Volunteering England. Part of NCVO Championing Volunteering and Civil Society. http://www.volunteering.org.uk/iwanttovolunteer/why-volunteer
“Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits” Helpguide.org: A Trusted Non-Profit Resource. http://www.helpguide.org/life/volunteer_opportunities_benefits_volunteering.htm
The Anawim Companion Society
Written by Brian Whin-Yates;
Social Media Director