The Personal and Professional Benefits of Volunteering

October 24, 2012

Many of us have so much for which to be thankful … excellent jobs, great families, nice homes, fun vacations, good health.  And, as busy as our lives are, every person has the ability to carve out a little bit of time that can benefit another in a great way.  It’s a choice. It’s rewarding.

I began volunteering about six years ago.  It certainly wasn’t that I didn’t have enough to fill up my spare time; I started because I had a burning need to help homeless animals by volunteering at a local animal shelter.  And, over the years I’ve learned a lot, including the fact that when you give your time and talent, you often receive amazing benefits in return, including:

A new circle of contacts – Volunteers come from all walks of life … whether young or old, wealthy or working class, one thing is certain and that is a commitment to make the world a better place through the charity they support.  And through that shared commitment spring new relationships, sometimes friendships, that connect people beyond the purpose of the charity. I’ve met many very accomplished people who have spent a lifetime working in the corporate world.  Volunteering leads to new business connections, and people doing business with other professionals who share the same passion.

Growth – Volunteering provides an opportunity to learn.  It may be learning from people who have a different set of professional talents, it might be learning a different philosophy, and it might be learning to appreciate all that you have.  It also provides an opportunity to teach, not just those volunteers who are young and still figuring out their path in this world, but also to teach the non-profit skills and philosophies that often bring success in the corporate world.

It’s Fun– Volunteering is fun and rewarding.  Whether you volunteer for an animal shelter, a children’s organization, or a community project, there is nothing more rewarding than making a difference in the life of someone else.  And, in much the same way religious organizations and community clubs provide a sense of belonging and vision for a shared goal and belief, so do charities.  Whether it’s your intention or not, you make new friends, you expand your thinking, you provide a service, and you become a resource.

When I started at the animal shelter, I had two rescue/shelter dogs.  Six years and two failed-fosters later, I have four (thank heavens for township limits!).  They’re all amazing.  I have countless new friends, I’ve made new business contacts, I have learned about industries and specialties that I otherwise would not be exposed to, and I’ve helped save lives.  Not every animal makes it out of the shelter system, but the ones who do make it into forever families because of dedicated volunteers.

Find something you love and give back … it’ll return to you tenfold.

Kelly Wallace is making Greater Media greater in her role as Director, Interactive & Account Development for Greater Media Philadelphia.