Opinion

Important Things to Consider Before You Volunteer

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There are a lot of wonderful benefits associated with volunteering. Just a few include:

  • Making connections with other people
  • Boosting your mood
  • Advancing your career
  • A place to belong

However, just because you volunteer some of your time doesn’t automatically mean your experience is going to be a good one. Volunteering only brings wonderful benefits to your life if you are mindful about how you approach doing it.

Here are a few things you’ll want to consider before you volunteer to ensure you get the most out of the experience as possible.

Your Physical Health

The connection between physical health and volunteering isn’t always obvious, and in some cases, it isn’t really relevant. In other cases, it’s an extremely important thing to consider if you don’t want to end up getting sick.

For example, if you volunteer in a clinic or a hospital, you are probably going to be exposed to lots of germs. That might not be a problem if you’re healthy and young, but if you have underlying health conditions, you may want to consider a different volunteer opportunity.

You also have to consider risks to your health and safety. Tens of thousands of people volunteered at ground zero after 9/11, but many of those people are suffering from health complications like cancer, breathing problems, and digestive challenges.

Those people may have proceeded differently if they would have known how it would have affected their health. They probably would have still volunteered, but many probably would have worn respirators.

Your Mental Health

The good news is that volunteering can be a great way to boost happiness! Those who volunteer are generally more satisfied with their lives. Knowing that you’re helping others can provide you with good feelings that last.

However, not all volunteer opportunities are created equal. There are some volunteer opportunities that may have the opposite effect, especially if you volunteer for a long period of time. For example, if you volunteer at a homeless shelter, you’re likely to feel good that you’re helping people without homes at first, but over time, you may find that everyone’s stories and life circumstances start to make you feel sad.

It’s important to get real about your mental health challenges so you don’t pick a volunteer opportunity that makes your mental health worse.

How Much Time You Can Commit

You may love the idea of volunteering multiple times a week, but do you have the time? Not only can it be frustrating for you if between working and volunteering you find yourself with almost no time for yourself, but it can be frustrating for others too. Those you’re volunteering with can become frustrated if you aren’t reliable, while your partner may be frustrated that you’re never at home.

Be honest with yourself about how much time you actually have to volunteer. If you lead a busy lifestyle, you may only be able to volunteer once a month, but it’s better to commit to just one event than it is to overbook yourself.

What You Want to Get Out of the Experience

There are tons of ways to give back and volunteer! From volunteering at your child’s school to building homes and visiting a senior center, there are plenty of needs you can fill in your community.

Don’t just jump on the first volunteer opportunity you come across. It is important to consider what you want out of the experience if you want to be successful and enjoy your time volunteering.

If you want to meet and talk to new people, consider volunteering at a nursing home. If you like working with your hands, try working with an organization like Habitat for Humanity.

The Organization You’re Volunteering For

You should also consider the organization you’re volunteering for. There are many wonderful volunteer options and organizations to choose from, but not all of them are created equal. Some give back more than others, and if you dig a little deeper, you may discover that you don’t agree with how the company is managed.

After you have done your research, it isn’t a bad idea to ask if you can volunteer just once or twice. That way, you can make sure the organization is a good fit for you.

It is commendable if you want to jump headfirst into a volunteer opportunity, but it can spell disaster. Consider the items on this list and you can make sure you choose the right volunteer opportunity for you.

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