All Momentum team members receive two paid Volunteer Days off each year to serve an organization or cause we care about. I recently took a day off to volunteer for a nonprofit I am connected to by directing a video for them pro bono. I was thankful to have the opportunity to work with them and expected to work hard and walk away tired after giving up my time for a good cause. However, I came out of that long day of shooting not spent, but energized!
At Momentum we work full-time for nonprofits doing meaningful work; we are in the trenches working for good causes every day. But there is something special about volunteering for a cause and coming together for a concentrated amount of time with a group of mostly strangers doing the same. It is a unique social and professional circumstance, and I wanted to understand more about the psychology behind why it is so rewarding.
It turns out there have been lots of studies done about the positive effects of volunteering on individuals and groups. Not only does volunteerism account for billions of dollars of value created for organizations and causes each year, but there are many positive outcomes for the volunteers themselves. Consider the following effects of taking time to volunteer for a cause you care about.
1) Health & Happiness
When volunteering is done with genuinely altruistic motives, studies show that it results in improved mood, decreased stress and improvements in overall health. The studies even saw people experiencing serious illnesses report improvements in their condition after volunteering.
But in case you missed my careful wording, don’t expect to experience this or other benefits if your motives for volunteerism are the benefits alone. Positive outcomes flow from authentic concern for others, participation in a mission bigger than yourself, and the community and connection that can be formed among people sharing these values.
“Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself.” -Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychologist and Holocaust survivor
2) Build Professional Skills (While Maximizing Your Value)
Think about finding a volunteer opportunity where you can donate your professional services/expertise. Not only will this give you a new context to hone your craft and get new experience, you will create far more value for the organization or cause you care about.
3) Build Relationships
When using your professional or personal skills to volunteer, you can connect with other people with similar interests and values. These connections can lead to meaningful professional and personal relationships. A study by the Corporation for National & Community Services points to strong links between volunteering and strong sense of community and belonging.
4) Grow in Leadership
92% of human resource executives agree that contributing to a nonprofit can improve an employees leadership skills.
Leading and motivating in a professional setting is one thing, but have you ever had to lead a group of people that aren’t being paid to follow you? If so, you know that you have to use a whole different set of leadership muscles that will surely come in handy in the workplace.