The Value of Volunteering

Did you know that the estimated value of volunteer time for 2016 was $24.14 per hour? This is how charitable organizations calculate the value of the volunteers who primarily make the organization’s mission possible. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 63 million Americans gave 8 billion hours of volunteer service worth $193 billion.

You may not choose to measure the value of volunteering in economic terms. You might choose to measure the value of volunteering in terms of the internal good feelings and sense of accomplishment. However, in honor of National Volunteer Week, let’s talk about the potential personal economic value of volunteering:

Learn new skills. A volunteer role is the perfect place to learn new skills and to stretch yourself. There are many volunteer opportunities that are slower-paced than your workplace, making it easier to catch on. For example, if you want to learn about budgets, the total dollar amount and cash flow of the local Girl Scout troop is likely less than your company’s budget. Volunteer responsibilities are serious and legitimate stuff, but there is likely someone who will train you and not worry too much about how long it takes. Unlike the finance guy at work, they are probably willing to guide you a little longer, until you get the hang of it. Volunteering is the best place to work on influencing without authority. Consider a volunteer opportunity that will build skills you want to add to your professional portfolio.

Build a network. Volunteering also provides a low-pressure environment to see another side of people from your company. Building a house or cleaning a riverbank alongside a group of like-minded volunteers you’ve never met is a great way to get to know people in an unguarded but work-like situation. Volunteer relationships can be the beginning of a whole new professional network of potential customers or employers.

Spur creativity at work.  Volunteering can help you learn new ways of doing things that will help you directly at work, and it reduces the potential for workplace burnout and the feeling of being in a rut. If you find yourself working long hours or thinking too much about work while at home, volunteering is a great way to divert your attention. The mere act of doing something that takes our mind away from the problems we’ve worked on all day helps us to be more creative and innovative. This is the same phenomenon that explains why we have such great ideas in the shower and why we should take periodic breaks during the workday. Unlike the shower, you can keep a notebook with you while you volunteer and capture those creative solutions to the problems you couldn’t quite solve during the workday.

Fulfills personal values. Foremost, volunteering should be fulfilling to you. Volunteering should not be a burden that will cause life overload or overly complicate your schedule. Find opportunities that fit your lifestyle, or if its important enough, modify your lifestyle to fit in the volunteering. Not everyone yet has a job that perfectly aligns with their personal values. There are many volunteer opportunities that can fill in those gaps. When you are able to fulfill your personal needs through a volunteer activity, it can be easier to go back to work knowing that you have other ways to have your desired impact in the world.

Whatever your motivation for being a volunteer, thank you.