Volunteering: Not Just Beneficial for the Recipients (by Megan Brown)

Introduction

megan.brown9-VolunteersLife_main_0919Before this class I had never before taken part in any kind of official volunteering. While I admit that this was an intimidating experience just starting the process and figuring out what type of volunteering that I wanted to do, once I started it has been smooth sailing. I chose virtual volunteering based on my busy schedule and incorporated something that I enjoy to do, crocheting. Contacting a hospice center based in California I found that they needed volunteers to make lap blankets for their patients which fits into my community theme of health/wellness. Even though it seems like such a small thing to do, it helps the patients feel more comfortable and like they have a little piece of home. Since starting this project I have enjoyed it very much and can see myself doing this long term. I find the process very relaxing, and I find it very comforting to know that I am making a difference to even just one person.

Researching throughout the term for my essays I found that even hospice centers are relying more and more on volunteers. They rely on volunteers for childcare, running errands for the families, visiting patients, and many other tasks. With our nation relying more and more on the kindness of volunteers why aren’t more people volunteering? I believe that part of the problem is that people are not educated on how easy it is to volunteer, or even know that they can find ways to volunteer from their own home on their own timeline.

This led me to my overall research question, what are the benefits of volunteering? Of course everyone knows the benefits the recipient receives, but what about the volunteer? Studies have found that volunteers receive physical, mental, and career benefits from volunteering. Not only does it make individuals happier, healthier and contribute to a longer lifespan, it also provides career experience and mentorship for freshly graduated students that they would not receive otherwise. If more people knew the benefits they could receive would they be more likely to volunteer? I definitely believe so. With virtual volunteering made easier than ever, and the vast amount of ways you can contribute I feel that there is not a single reason why each and every person can’t volunteer from the comfort of their own home to make a difference in themselves and the person/people that they are helping.

Determined to spread awareness and to educate the public on the benefits and ease of modern volunteering I have submitted a letter to the editor of Willamette Weekly in hopes of it being published. I feel that since this paper is published often and easily accessible to the public that it is wide read throughout the city and can reach a good portion of the population of Portland. My hope is that the more people that know of the benefits of volunteering, the more people will volunteer.

Research Collection

Source 1:

Binder, Martin, and Andreas Freytag. “Volunteering, Subjective Well-being and Public Policy.” Journal of Economic Psychology 34 (February 2013): 97-119. Science Direct. 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

Summary:

This article is based on the subjective and health well-being of people volunteer and how their well-being increases over time. Basically the longer that someone volunteers, the happier and more fulfilled they are.

I feel that it is important for my project and for people to know this because if more people understood the positive effects of volunteering then they would probably be more likely to participate. I believe that a lot of people view volunteering as helping someone else, but never think about the ways that it can help them personally. Positive personal benefits could persuade individuals to take the time to volunteer.

Source 2:

Zimmerman, Eilene. “A Gateway To a Career Through Volunteering.” New York Times 6 May 2012: 7(L). Academic OneFile. Web. 19 Nov. 2014

Summary:

This periodical article discusses how freshly graduated students can use volunteering to help them on their career paths. Students can gain many benefits from volunteering such as gaining experience in different fields, getting mentored by senior-level professionals, gain references for resumes, and gain confidence. All of these can help individuals decide which path they want to take their career down and may help them realize they want to do something different than they originally planned on.

I feel that this article is important because it is another example of how volunteering is beneficial to the volunteer, and not just the recipients. While increased happiness and well-being are very good reasons to volunteer everyone has a career that they need to think about and pursue. Unfortunately money even if it won’t appear until the future is still a driving factor for many individuals.

Source 3:

Okun, Morris A., Ellen Wanheung Yeung, and Stephanie Brown. “Volunteering by Older Adults and Risk of Mortality: A Meta-analysis.” Psychology and Aging 28.2 (2013): 564-77. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.

Summary: Analysis of benefits the elderly (participants had to be at least 55 years old) received from volunteering. Study found that the participants received a reduction in mortality of 47%, proof that volunteering can help you live a longer life.

This information is important because it shows yet another physical benefit of volunteering. Along with mortality benefits, seniors also benefit from having something to look forward to and achieving a sense of accomplishment.

Source 4:

“Volunteering Among Americans Hits Five-Year High.” PR Newswire 12 Dec. 2012. Academic OneFile. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.

Summary:

Discusses how volunteer rates have been going up, yay! Oregon has the second highest increase in the U.S. (+5%). This is good to see that more people are volunteering, but to raise the numbers even more would make a huge difference.

This article is important because it shows that people are becoming more aware of volunteering whether it is from friends that have spread the word, or just motivation to make a difference in the world. This evidence should make individuals even more comfortable about getting into volunteering.

****

The Public Writing

Dear Mark Zusman,

With the holiday’s quickly approaching and the continued economic hardships that have been present over the years a topic that I feel that is important to share with the public is the benefits of volunteering for the volunteers. Not only do individuals that volunteer receive physical and mental benefits, but volunteering can also be used as a gateway to a career.

With the amount of students that are graduating with heaps of freshly earned debt, any assistance that’s provided after college is appreciated. Not only can students gain mentoring from professional level executives, but it also gives them the opportunity to gain experience within different fields of the specialty that they have chosen. These combined lead to greater job satisfaction and greater confidence in the work field which reflects positively on the employer and the employee.

Along with the wonderful career motives, the personal benefits are just as valuable. Studies prove that volunteering has decreased mortality rates in the elderly as much as 47% and sustain mental and physical well-being. With just as many if not more benefits returning to the volunteer from the act itself we need to make the public more aware, and more willing to pursue helping our community.

This is the perfect time of the year for individuals to get involved in volunteering. With virtual volunteering made easier than ever there is no reason that each and every person can’t spend an hour or two in the comfort of their homes, changing another person’s life.

Megan Brown

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2 comments

  1. Hi Megan, congrats on making it to the end of the class! I think you have a well developed idea here but I think it is my job to poke a few holes in it. From my own experience with this class, and trying to juggle my home life of three kids and a full time job with the volunteer work (and not doing a very good job of it I have to admit) the issue wasn’t with my desire to do the work, it’s with the energy needed to make it happen. For people with less on their plate there’s really no reason not to take on some kind of volunteering, but whether they take that step to make it happen is going to depend a lot on how they feel about the amount of work they already have in their lives. Telling a person that by taking on a task that they won’t be paid for they will feel a lot better, well that’s just kind of a tough sell.

    You touched on the career possibilities of doing volunteer work, and I think that’s a really excellent angle to use when broaching the subject, especially to younger people. I remember another essay in which the speaker was talking about how he was having such a difficult time breaking into his field (I don’t remember what it was, something relating to music and websites I think) that he began contacting people and offering to work for free, just to start getting experience. It’s not exactly what you’re talking about above, but if people realized these sorts of job-related experiences are available I think you’d start seeing a lot more volunteer work.

  2. Leah Webb

    Megan,

    First off, I was really impressed that someone decided to write the benefits of volunteering for the volunteer him or herself. No one really discusses the evidence that one could benefit from helping their community. After reading your essay, it made me feel more confident in what I chose to do for my volunteer work during this term (DIY project for Humane Society). I can relate to the benefits of volunteering: I built amazing relationships with other volunteers who really appreciated my home baked dog biscuits for the shelter, which in return made me feel better about myself. I could say that it is a huge self esteem boost. I try to explain to my friends and family that volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean physically volunteering and that there are other opportunities to become involved in our community. Like you explained, virtual volunteering is simple and can be done on their own time. I hope your paper is published in hopes that it’ll reach out to other people within in the community to volunteer and benefit from the experience as well as helping those organizations that can only continue with the help of volunteers.

    In your paper, you did a good job bringing up the benefits of volunteering. Your sources back-up your points which always makes for a stronger paper. I particularly enjoyed the article from the Journal of Economic Psychology from your first source. I’m very interested in the psychology point of view, and during my psychology course we touched base with the effects of the choices people make and how they may or may not benefit from them. Volunteering was one topic we slightly touched on, and it’s interesting how others don’t believe the benefits. But I think that is because they have not experienced the glory in helping others through an organization (not saying they don’t help others in general). I agree with the thesis you built from your question; if more people understood the benefits and how simple it can be, more people would volunteer and not regret it. I think your letter to the editor was good, but I also think that you would benefit from bringing in some personal stories of your experience rather than facts. I think others would enjoy reading about your experience with virtual volunteering, and maybe that would give the readers a better idea of what virtual volunteering is.

    Overall, you did a great job! I hope you continue with your virtual volunteering and spreading the word about it.

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