By: Makenna Hansel | United Way of Central Florida
There are more than 1 billion active nonprofits throughout the US alone. Most, if not all, heavily rely on those who give their time to help other community members. According to Nonprofits Source, only about 25% of American adults volunteer. This number has been trending down since 2016, while needs throughout the country are only getting larger. As an EMERGE member, you’ve heard lots about opportunities to volunteer in our community. You’ve most likely joined a project or two. I’m sure you have thought about the impact your time and efforts left for neighbors who need a hand. Have you thought about how it impacts you?
It has been shown that volunteering can have more benefits than you think. From physical and mental health to career experience, to feeling good about your work. Studies show that those who volunteer regularly (around 100 hours a year) are happier and healthier than those who don’t. You can also gain valuable skills that can help you start or advance in your career. While the direct help is vital for those who are receiving it, the impact for volunteers is huge.
Interested in volunteering? The next step is to find the best organization for YOU! With so many organizations servicing all types of needs, there is something for everyone. Determine what your passions are and start there. Do you love animals? Passionate about kids or education? Medical student needing some hands-on experience? Find a nonprofit with a mission that you personally believe in and would like to help them achieve. And remember, volunteering is supposed to be fun and rewarding. If it starts to feel like another task on your to-do list, it may be time to take a break.
Now time for a personal story: Throughout high school, I was heavily involved in volunteering. I mostly was involved with VISTE, SPCA Florida, Polk County Bully Project, and Student United Way. When I first started at these places, I was just trying to get required volunteer hours. Pretty soon, I fell in love with it. I felt pride in myself and the work we were doing. I felt like I had found my purpose, giving back what I can to make my community a better place. I got to serve the elderly in our community, love on dogs who are waiting for their fur-ever homes and be involved in the many United Way partner agencies. I have been able to use these experiences to work for an amazing organization, UWCF, that has taught me so much. I am so grateful for all of the time I was able to spend serving.
Long story short: Volunteering is impactful, but not just to those receiving the services.