The gifts of giving back: 5 reasons I volunteer

I’ve always been a high achiever, so naturally when I learned that I could earn extra credit for doing volunteer work related to my degree, I seized the opportunity. Within a matter of weeks, I landed an open position at the Walker Art Center that was a great fit for my hectic class schedule and love of contemporary art.

It didn’t take long for me to catch the volunteering bug.

While volunteering to help others can be seen as selfless, I see it as a mutually beneficial action, both for myself and for the organization I’m supporting. In other words, when I donate my time in service of a mission I support, I’m also looking to gain professional and personal benefits. I see those benefits as the gifts of giving back.

Here are my top 5:

Professional Development

My experience as a volunteer has enriched and informed my professional journey. My nonprofit career would not be where it is today without the time I’ve spent volunteering at various nonprofit organizations over the last nine years.

Not only have I been able to expand my network and cultivate valuable relationships with other nonprofit professionals, I’ve also strengthened my resume and sense of confidence by developing new skills, such as event planning, while building upon the skills I originally brought to the table.


I like to ask myself: what do I need so I am fulfilled as a human being? Volunteering has helped me identify some of these things, particularly that the work I choose to do has to be meaningful, and make a positive difference in this world. In one recent volunteer role, my main objective was to show kindness to strangers. This led to several meaningingful interactions I would not have had otherwise, and reminded me that showing kindness, even in a small form, is powerful.

Equally important, as I have become more aware of my core needs and how to realize my desires, my quality of life has improved. I have figured out what I love to do and no longer find myself hesitant or nervous when a new opportunity arises. Instead, I’m excited, particularly because I know I’ll learn something about myself.

Community Building

Who are the people you surround yourself with, and why or how do you know them? What might your life be like if you hadn’t met them?

Through volunteering, I have met the majority of my chosen family; my closest friends that I can’t imagine living without. I have become part of strong and reliable communities that are full of people I can easily relate to, because we share common interests and experiences. When I spend time with the people in my chosen family, I truly enjoy social interactions because I feel energized by them, not drained or anxious.

It Feels Good

Yes, the warm and fuzzies. They are real. When I help others and am able to support what I believe in, I feel great. Even better, volunteering comes with some amazing health benefits.




It’s Fun

This is the BEST part! Volunteering equals guaranteed social time with friends and awesome people who could become friends. Plus, I get to directly support organizations I care about and help people while doing work that I love to do.   

Even when the work is not the most glamorous (sometimes you have to file something or clean up the kitchen), volunteering your time for a cause you care about comes with so many gifts, even more than what I listed here. And that’s what makes giving back SO worth it for me.

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