Nowadays, it's easier than ever to volunteer for causes you care about, and you can fit volunteering into your schedule or location. So the real question is "why not volunteer?
Do you believe us?
We know, the word 'volunteering' still comes across too often as something time-consuming and a bit dull. But we like to prove that this is not always the case.
Besides the rather obvious reasons to volunteer - you help others - donating your time and skills to a charity you care about is something that goes far beyond a one-off act.
What you contribute to society by volunteering is not just super valuable to the world around you. You too will be better off doing something you really care about with some regularity.
Despite the fact that volunteering is often described as desirable for others, the positive effects on the volunteer's quality of life are becoming increasingly clear. For example, a study by the University of Ghent showed that people who do volunteer work were generally healthier than people who do not volunteer for their communities.
Mental health: The study found that volunteering can lead to an increased sense of self-confidence, competence and also social integration. This is mainly due to the social contact with others and the 'busy' nature of volunteering activities. Like paid work, volunteering creates a sense of agency and provides a goal to work towards.
Physical health: The impact of volunteering on our physical health is not negligible either. For example, this study on the effects of altruistic behaviour and physical health found that volunteering releases care-giving hormones such as oxytocin and progesterone. These in turn have a reducing effect on stress and inflammation.
So, quite simply, volunteering not only has a positive impact on your surroundings, but also on your own mood and physical health.
There are actually two ways in which volunteering can impact your career in a positive way. One, volunteering can help you develop skills professionally. *winning*
After all, you can do all kinds of work at organisations that are desperately in need of helping hands. Think about digital marketing skills, photography, legal advice, etc. This way you can gain experience in your field of work, while at the same time helping organisations with your special skills.
Using your branding and marketing expertise for a local care home? That's exactly what Red Bull's brand team did at Cordaan. They used their annual volunteer day to develop a new communication plan for the Special Amsterdams.
You can also build a more meaningful career through corporate volunteering. Simply put, this means volunteering through your employer. A great way to learn new things, see new environments and get inspired.
Employees who are too busy don't have to give up well-deserved free time for their volunteer work.
Corporate volunteering fosters a culture of social responsibility for the organisation and between employees
Corporate volunteering promotes togetherness within teams and offers a sense of purpose
In the United States, the 'corporate volunteering' trend emerged some time ago, but the rest of the world is not waiting either. For example, volunteer days are proving to be a good employee engagement tool for more and more companies.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to contribute to your city's social organisations. Think of youth clubs, care institutions or city gardens. You directly influence the lives of vulnerable groups in your local community. Indirectly, you influence the feeling of solidarity, equality and connection in your city. If you strongly believe in the power of the collective, then this is probably the reason that appeals most to you.
The power of the collective also applies on a national level. After all, the largest contribution to charities in the Netherlands is made by households, not foundations or companies. In 2013 alone, almost 2 billion was donated to charities by households alone. That is 45% of the total of all donations of that year.
Make new friends and build a good network. Perhaps you have just moved house? Or do you just want to discover new cultures and insights? Volunteering offers the opportunity to focus on a specific goal and make new contacts. There is no better way to gather around you a group of committed and active people who care about the same things as you do. Meaningful use of free time and social awareness often result in beautiful moments and memories. It is also a special and good way to take away feelings of loneliness!
Splinter, Country Manager at Deedmob:
"It is sometimes very tempting to debate certain social problems and not actually take action. However, I recently decided that together with a few friends I would volunteer at the local city garden."
"This experience broadened our understanding of the issue of 'food waste' and we quickly found out what it was all about to grow our own food. The impact of our own consumption patterns is something we will not easily forget."
No more excuses
Excuses. The biggest enemy of volunteering. And believe us, we have all heard them before.
"I don't know where to start as a volunteer".
Ok, granted, not everyone has the time, space or resources to volunteer. And if you do, it can be quite overwhelming to throw yourself into the vast array of information available online.
For example, in Amsterdam alone, in the area of "family and community", you can respond to almost 200 volunteer vacancies. And that's just one goal in one of the Dutch cities where Deedmob is active.
So, to get that first excuse out of the way, this is where you can start looking for an activity that suits you.
"I don't have time
Probably the most-used justification of all time to - let's face it - get away with anything. However, the problem is not the lack of time, but how you set your own priorities. It is always an option to stand up for an elderly person on the bus or help someone cross the road. Volunteering is not always planned or timed. Sometimes it just happens!
Louise, Partnership Manager at Deedmob:
"I usually filter my search 'one-off activities' so that I can get to know a charity in advance, without making a month-long commitment. For example, last summer I went for several morning plogs in the Vondelpark and recently went to a memorial dinner with 100 newcomers and 100 locals."
"But on my own I can't change the world anyway"
Funnily enough, when something negative happens in our society, we can easily imagine that a single person is responsible for it. If one individual can influence his surroundings negatively, why can't you make a positive impact the other way around?
Activists, volunteers, lobbyists and charities usually start out as small groups of individuals asking themselves: "how can we contribute to the cause we care about?" and not: "why should we volunteer?
Boudewijn, CEO of Deedmob:
"Think about how donating your skills - volunteering, that is - can make a positive impact on another person. Can you play the guitar? Teach someone. Can you code? Help a charity with its website. Do you know how to make the elderly have a good day? Sign up for a pleasant walk."
We hope that the question "Why volunteer?" has been answered to some extent. In case you still don't know if and how to get started, just try to think of some of your daily habits that you could change to positively affect the world around you. Believe us, after a few good deeds of your own free will, before you know it you will be making a positive contribution to your local community and the world around you on a daily basis!