April is National Volunteer Month, a time to recognize the importance of volunteering and appreciate those who do. Whether it be a monetary donation or spending a few hours with your favorite non-profit, volunteering can make a huge difference in your life and the lives of others! To get started, we’ve created a list of ways you can find a volunteering opportunity that matches your interests and goals.
Do you prefer to be hands-on or help behind the scenes? Would you rather help with paperwork, or do you prefer physical labor such as taking a shift at an animal shelter? Make sure to find organizations that align with your personal values: Look into the organization’s founders, partners and past philanthropic efforts to make sure they’re a good match. When you know your values and volunteering preferences, you can find more of the right opportunities.
If you prefer staying home over attending in-person events, there are still plenty of opportunities for you to lend a hand. Writing letters to service members or donating to an online non-profit organization are ways to support a community from home. There are also organizations that primarily focus on virtual volunteerism – once you find an organization you align with, investigate their virtual opportunities – many human rights organizations, environmental groups and wildlife protection groups have a digital space for volunteers.
Can’t find an upcoming volunteer event that sparks your interest? Consider creating your own! Something simple, like taking time on a Sunday to pick up trash on the roadside, can have an incredible impact. Get a few friends to organize a clothing or supply donation, lend a hand with a neighbor’s yard work or make a monetary donation to your favorite local non-profit; there are countless ways to create your own experience.
Be sure to follow the instructions of whoever’s leading the volunteer event or non-profit organization. Follow all the relevant safety procedures and make sure that you aren’t over-exerting yourself.
Volunteering is proven to increase your happiness. Research has proven that being around people with common interests and feeling a sense of community and connection leads to lower risks of depression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness.
A study from Carnegie Mellon University found that adults over age 50 who volunteered regularly were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.
Volunteering 200 hours per year showed a significant increase in psychological well-being. You don’t have to start with a goal of 200 hours a year: a single volunteer event can provide you with positive mental and physical benefits.