OPINION: Thinking about volunteering with a charity or community organisation?

Here’s seven unexpected ways you can extend yourself through volunteering – and make a difference to society.

1. Volunteer and extend your life

Volunteering not only makes a difference for the organisation you’re working for, it can also make you healthier and even help you live longer. According to a study published in

Psychology and Aging in 2013, people who volunteer for just two hours a week are 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure. In 2011, US researcher Sara Konrath found that people who volunteer regularly have lower mortality rates than those who don’t. She suggests that caring for others makes you more likely to care for yourself.

2. Volunteer and extend the cause

Most charities depend on the generosity of volunteers – but you may be surprised at just how much volunteers contribute. Statistics New Zealand’s Non-profit institutions’ satellite account, published in June last year, found that volunteering contributed $9.4 billion to GDP in 2013. Volunteering is the lifeblood of a sector that could never afford to pay people to do the same work. Volunteers makeup 67% of the non-profit workforce and contribute 270 million hours of unpaid labour to New Zealand charities every year.

3. Volunteer and extend the exposure

As a volunteer, you can help spread the word about the great work your organisation is doing. Sometimes exposure in the wider community is just as valuable for a charity as actual money. Whether you’re helping to highlight an unseen issue or profiling the work a charity does, building up grassroots momentum will help charities achieve more. You can encourage others to get involved, or even help mobilize the government to provide financial backing.

4. Volunteer and extend your networks

Working alongside someone who shares your passion for a cause is a great way of making new friends – and it may even spark a romance. Of course, the latter is a bonus and shouldn’t be the reason you do it, but there’s nothing like volunteering to forge strong bonds with others. Even if you don’t find a life partner, you can still develop networks that will be useful in both your personal and your working lives.

5. Volunteer and extend your experience

Volunteering can be the cherry on top of your CV. Volunteering experience can add a bit of colour to your resume, and may give you the edge over other applicants. Volunteering experiences shows employers you’re prepared to put others’ interests before your own, and they help reveal something important about your character. Volunteering also provides opportunities and experiences you might not encounter otherwise.

6. Volunteer and extend your work stories

Is working in an office not quite fulfilling your itch for better work stories? Volunteering can help fill that void. Step out and experience life – whether you spend a week in the bush volunteering for DoC, helping out during an emergency or preparing food for people in need, your stories will intrigue your work colleagues and make them wish they had similar stories to share! (This is where you can rope them into the cause with you).

7. Volunteer and extend your legacy

As they say, no-one reaches the end of their life wishing they’d put in more hours at the office. It’s important to spend more time with the people you love, but it’s also important to do something to make a difference in the world. Live a life of adventure, take risks and try something new. Remember – with the rise of social media, our life stories will be on display for generations to come. What story will your life tell?

Dave Adams is the campaign manager for National Volunteer Week, which began yesterday. The theme this year is ‘Live, Laugh, Share; Volunteer’.

 – The Dominion Post

SOURCE: stuff.co.nz