Have you ever been on a volunteer day with your company? If so, you know that those opportunities to give back aren’t just good for the world, but good for you, too. As a volunteer, you leave the event feeling grateful, knowing you contributed to something bigger than yourself.
So, there’s a clear reason why these employee-sponsored events are becoming the norm—it deepens your sense of meaning and empowers you with positive momentum that translates to the workplace. And, as it turns out, volunteering can also be awesome for your mental health.
Research from Harvard University shows that volunteering weekly can boost happiness by 16% (the equivalent impact of a significant raise). And a study from United Health Group shows that people who volunteer benefit from higher levels of well-being and self-esteem than their counterparts.
Think about transitioning from a one-time volunteering gig to a weekly or monthly commitment—it can help you build your career. Not sure how to get started? Here’s how to get involved with your community for the long haul:
Connect With an Organization
If you really connected with an organization during a one-off event, turning it into a regular thing is pretty easy. Look up the contact information for the volunteer coordinator, or if you’re at the event itself, ask for the business card. From there, a simple email can open the door to making volunteering a consistent part of your life.
Last week, I volunteered with my company __ at your organization. I really enjoyed my time doing ____ and felt really connected to your mission. Do you have any opportunities for long-term volunteers? I would love to get involved in a more consistent way.
In the meantime, think about the time commitment you can make. Do you have an hour a week or five hours a month? Organizations typically accept as much time as you can give them, but setting expectations upfront is a proactive way to make sure you don't get burned out.
Even though you enjoyed your time with one specific organization, don't limit yourself to one organization before exploring other options. Just like with the job search process, you can benefit from doing some research.
Databases like Volunteermatch.org and Idealist.org make it easy to get a broad sense of the opportunities in your area. Consider turning your attention to a pressing issue that’s close to your heart and especially relevant to your community.
Worried about your tight schedule or frequent travel? Don’t count yourself out. There are a ton of opportunities to volunteer remotely, especially if you’re willing to leverage technology and do a little more research. For example, you could help field texts from your home (or hotel) at a crisis hotline like Veterans Crisis Line Chat or The Trevor Project.
A little research will help you find organizations that fit your interests and lifestyle.
Match Your Skills or Passions to Their Need
When you think of volunteering, you probably imagine an activity completely separate from your day-to-day job. But pro-bono work can build on your knowledge as a professional, broaden your experience, and help out your community.
Organizations always need help with skilled projects, especially when they face a niche topic like SEO, computer programming, or even employee training. So, when you connect with organizations, think big. Is there a career direction you want to explore or a new kind of project you would like to add to your portfolio?
Both Catchafire, which connects nonprofits with professionals, and the United Nation’s online volunteer database offer skills-based volunteering that can seriously add to your resume. Helping others and driving your career forward are symbiotic—you don’t have to separate the two.
When you transition from a one-off volunteer day to a regular commitment, remember even a few hours a week can help an organization. After all, every hour adds up. If every person does their part, organizations will have a lot more resources to contribute to our global community. And you'll feel great that you’re giving back, too!
Photo of volunteers planting trees courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Sponsored by The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group is the second largest AAA club in North America. The company and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance, and financial services to approximately 9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories. The group aims to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety.