It seems all very fashionable nowadays to have a cause, start a movement or to be tagged in the latest do-gooder #trend, but let’s get real, where’s the value in all of it?
“The heart of a volunteer is never measured in size but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others” – De-Ann Hollis
We will get to some studies and figures soon, but I can only speak from my personal experience on this one, and that’s the same for everyone. The value is found inside, where the acts you undertake for the benefit of others, have some effect on your own heart. That effect is one of perspective mostly, to view your personal struggles within the narrative of all people’s struggles. To have the invigoration of knowing something, just something, however small has been done for good in the life of another living being, and that it was you, or preferably a group of you, who did that thing. There’s true value there.
According to the most recent studies, corroborating earlier work, volunteering has been shown to boost better mental and physical health, life satisfaction, self-esteem, happiness, lower depressive symptoms, psychological distress, mortality and functional inability. As proved recently, the health benefits of volunteering are not due to self-selection bias, a phenomenon where people who identify with a particular activity automatically give opinions in favour of their particular activity. These benefits seem to be objectively measurable. A study from the EU indicates a wide variety of benefits in the number of voluntary activities between member states in the sports sector, this proportion determined largely by national policies, red-tape involved and encouragement for volunteering activities. It however does corroborate the good effects that respondents encountered.
There is even a growing body of evidence to suggest that volunteering is rather good for the health of your heart. There are further reports which conclude that when done with the right spirit, regular volunteering could prolong your life-span, while reducing stress. Interestingly, these benefits seem to only accrue when the true motivation behind your volunteering is other-oriented. If there is no altruistic motive and you are doing it merely for the sake of doing it, there are few real benefits.
How to get started:
Well, just get started! Explore what motivates you to good works, a cause that truly tugs at your heartstrings is probably where you should go. Whether this is for the benefit of animals, education, poverty alleviation, awareness over issues, take your pick and try out a few.
By their nature, those who run non-profits will take as many arms and legs as they can get from you, so don’t be afraid to take a break if that is what you need, or walk away should a particular organisation or activity no longer line up with your subjective intention to help others.
Compassion Fatigue is a real thing. You cannot help everyone and you will get burned out even attempting to, scroll through your news feed on social media for a moment and I bet you will find a handful of causes begging for your help. Having an empathetic reaction to each one will wear you out. You pick your harvest field, your pond of a cause, an issue, a ministry that speaks to your heart and focus only on that. Every other cause, adopt an attitude something like: “I’m sorry, but there’s just not much I can do.” That which you do decide to assist with, just do that without much fanfare, knowing this little pond is where you’re going to get to work.
Donations are not the only way you can help, you have a specific set of skills which, through consulting, advice, marketing, networking and many other types of work, can be just as helpful to a non-profit than your money, if not more so.
So get out there and start giving of yourself, if done right, you’re actually the one who benefits the most!
We aim to assist several selected non-profits in matters of governance, contracting and labour. Take a look at our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/contractuallyspeaking/) to see what we’re up to. Also, please contact us should you be looking for well credited volunteering opportunities in gauteng, we know a few good ones! http://www.contractuallyspeaking.co.za/contact.html