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Let’s All Volunteer

There are only a few opportunities in life where it is totally acceptable to be selfish. And one of those opportunities surprisingly is volunteering.


Not many people consider time spent volunteering to be for their own benefit, but it’s true. Time spent volunteering easily delivers as much back to the volunteer at it does to the cause you are helping.

This idea of the individual benefits of volunteering did not occur to me until I wrote a blog (currently on hold) on a pet peeve of mine about volunteers—namely volunteers seem to bring their heart and energy with them to volunteer, but many leave their professional expertise behind. People want to volunteer to do something outside their normal workday, but that will be a future blog.

I began thinking about all the people I have encountered and the great benefits I’ve received when I take the time to volunteer for a good cause. It is really overwhelming.

Here are some of those benefits that I’ve received.

At Work

As a business leader, your job is to manage those surprises and concerns such that they have little influence on how you and your employees work. The more you can eliminate anxiety from your sphere in the workplace the more your employees can focus on their jobs.

It is possible to reduce anxiety significantly. Everybody does it every day.

For example, when you are driving down the street, are you worried about the car next to you veering out of their lane and hitting your car? No. Mostly you are paying attention to those around you and what they are doing, but you are not worrying about them. If they do begin to drive erratically, you act by either honking your horn or slowing down to give some distance between them and you. You proactively (and mostly unconsciously) distance yourself from other drivers who have the potential to cause you anxiety.

We need to take this same mentality to work. You cannot worry about what you cannot control. You do your job, just like driving your car, and when something unexpected happens, you act. But you are not letting those unknowns cause you anxiety.

  1. Builds bonds and creates friends. There is a bonding that happens when you are working shoulder to shoulder with a person you just met for the first time.

In most volunteer situations, everyone recognizes what needs to be done and who, given their physical abilities, interests, and experiences, needs to be doing what. Everyone is recognized for their contribution. The credit for what everyone accomplishes goes to the cause you are working for. With all the egos stripped away, it becomes so much easier to make friends and enjoy one another’s company.

  1. Builds community. Even though you may be only a small part of a larger project, you get the satisfaction of seeing its success. For example, you may have only been responsible for picking up trash in a small area, but you were part of the community that came together to clean-up a much larger project that you alone could not have done.
  2. Increased socialization. Several years ago, I was part of a small group who cleaned out flooded houses in a neighboring community. I have not worked alongside any of these volunteers again, yet when I see them, it is like we work together every day. Because of volunteering, I now consider these people my friends.
  3. Health benefits. Nothing says “get in shape” louder than hauling boxes of donated food into a warehouse, lugging water-logged furniture from a house, or camping with a group of kids in a local park. Knowing that many volunteer activities require physical actions helps remind me to take care of my physical conditioning.
  4. It will be fun.

Get Out and Volunteer

As business owners and entrepreneurs, we often volunteer with the thought of giving back to the community in which we live. Once you understand that volunteering is as much for your benefit as the cause you volunteering for, it becomes much easier to justify the time and energy spent away from your work volunteering.

The Bible

Volunteering in the Bible is presented in two different ways. The first way is a directive to give of your possessions and time for the benefit of others. Proverbs 11:24 says.

One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

A second way volunteering is presented in the Bible is the continuous examples set by the characters illustrated within the Bible.

The story of Ruth, for example, is about a widow who chooses to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi, who also is a widow, after her husband died. Widows in ancient Judea had a hard life. Ruth gleaned grain (to pick up the missed and dropped grain kernels) behind the harvesters so she and Naomi could eat. She constantly did everything for other people without expecting anything for herself. Ruth provided many services for Naomi that we volunteer for today.

I urge you to be selfish and receive the benefit you deserve for volunteering your time, possessions and expertise. You will be blessed because what you are doing is following the directions of the Bible.