The holidays have since passed, but it does not mean that your giving has to end. This year, you can resolve to find ways to contribute to your community or to a worthy cause. Volunteerism is one of those ways. Volunteerism builds communities and improves society - making it a better place for all who live in it.
In Canada, we have seen the rate of volunteerism grow. In 2010, more than 13.3 million people volunteered indicating a 6.4% increase from 2007 and 12% from 2004. With more fundraising and issue awareness activities happening online, we can expect that this upward trend will continue.
Volunteerism was once considered an altruistic act, which is purely charitable and selfless, with no benefit to the donor. However, as of recent, people widely accept the notion of both sides benefiting from volunteerism. Studies cite multiple ways in which the giver and receiver benefit from an altruistic transaction; ranging from promoting various health boosters, inducing stress relievers to releasing natural painkillers. Steven Post, author of "Why Good Things Happen to Good People," even makes the claim that our generosity can promote our longevity.
But, besides physiology and psychology, in today's economy, the impact of our giving is felt more deeply than in previous years. Three years ago, in the heart of the recession, about 1 in 2 Canadians donated their time, energy and skills to charities and non-profit organizations. The approximately 2 billion volunteer hours they contributed was equivalent to more than 1 million full-time jobs.
We see that the impact is as real as the need, and that we can make a difference.
Organizations and charities benefit from access to skills and effort that they may not have the resources to pay for. The numerous benefits to the volunteer are considered here. Hopefully, they will inspire you to get involved and give back somehow.
The cause may be sufficient for you to get involved, and will be critical to you committing your free time and staying engaged. The interest may also have been sparked because of personal or family experiences, which produce interest in a cause and empathy for those in similar situations.
Many feel obligated to give something back to the community, or to repay some benefit that was bestowed on them from a volunteer. Some individuals owe their success to a volunteer or outreach program and they are compelled to volunteer in the same community.
Personal skills or goals
Getting involved in an organization may be a way of doing something unrelated to what you usually do. Alternatively, you may be in a position to apply your knowledge and skills but in a completely different context.
Stepping outside of your routine or familiar environment may be a way to build new skills or to achieve personal goals, such as:
- Increase your self-esteem and confidence
- Create a sense of personal value or achievement
- Provide a different and broader outlook on life and society
- Feed a desire or interest to remain busy or occupied during retirement
Volunteering abroad may contribute to all of the above, and enable you to learn new languages and experience different cultures.
The personal skills noted above may be a way of making you more marketable to potential employers. Whether you are at the stage of launching your career or are looking to change career direction, you may be able to demonstrate to prospective employers how you have acquired and applied new skills learned in the volunteer position, such as communication, interpersonal skills, organizational skills or leadership.
This may be a way for you (or your resume) to stand out from the competition, winning you that interview, especially when the skills can be transferred to the prospective job. Many employers who are hiring students out of school are looking for so-called "well rounded individuals," as opposed to graduates with no experience outside of the classroom.
In addition to acquiring transferrable job skills, volunteering may be a way to connect and interact with individuals who are already working in your chosen field.
Stepping outside of your usual circle of acquaintances, and interacting with individuals from different backgrounds, can be an interesting and enlightening experience by providing an alternative perspective or outlook. For the retired, volunteering may be a way of staying connected.
The future workplace
Many non-profit organizations or charitable projects benefit from the time and efforts contributed by volunteers. The millennial generation (also known as Generation Y, born between approximately 1980 and the early 2000's), highly value, amongst other things, spending their time in meaningful ways, which includes volunteerism.
This generation seeks out employers who are willing to support their volunteering interest. With Generation Y now in their 20s and 30s, they are becoming a large part of today's workforce so this trend is likely to continue if not accelerate. Employers should consider how to address this need within their organizations.
The partners and staff at Crowe Soberman have a long history of giving their time and effort to worthwhile causes. Many of our professionals gift their time and expertise by sitting on non-profit and charitable boards and participating in community initiatives. In this special edition, you will read examples of individuals passionate about their cause. If you are not already volunteering, we hope you will be motivated to volunteer in 2013.
Paul Rhodes is a partner in the Audit & Advisory Group. His professional experience includes construction, manufacturing, real estate and internal audit engagements. Paul is a member of the Toronto Construction Association.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.