When you volunteer, the people and organizations you serve aren't the only ones who benefit. You reap the rewards as well—better health, a rosier outlook, and new learned skills.
So if self-improvement is on your resolutions list for 2013, consider volunteering your ideal route—with opportunities for exercising, discovering new talents, exploring career options, meeting new friends and more—all while giving back to others. Now, that’s a win-win.
Need to install drywall in your kitchen or replace tile in the bathroom? You can hire a contractor, pay to take a course—or you can learn these skills while helping others.
Try Habitat for Humanity. Help a family build their own home while learning about framing, masonry, siding, roofing and more. Volunteer for just a day or up to two weeks, with guidance by crew leaders accustomed to a variety of skill levels. Find a Habitat for Humanity program near you.
Help in your own backyard. From coast to coast, a variety of community groups have come together to help disabled and elderly neighbors with minor home improvements and repairs. The website for the popular TV show “This Old House” provides some great ideas and opportunities for lending a hand locally.
An exercise class can run up to $20 a session, and a personal trainer, much more. But volunteering in a physically active way can improve the health of your body, your bank account and your karma.
Do a cardio cleanup. Join in on a trail, river, park or other open space cleanup and you’ll get double the benefits: a calorie-burning afternoon and new knowledge about your natural surroundings.
Lead a class. You don't have to be a professional to teach children in your neighborhood how to dance, do light exercises or play active games. Talk to activity directors about informal opportunities to share your knowledge. Or find fun ideas like NASA’s Train Like an Astronaut program.
Call the shots. Local parks on the weekend are full of kids playing soccer, baseball and other sports. Become part of the network that makes their exercise and fun possible—and get some exercise yourself by volunteer coaching. Learn more at the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
A strong social network has been linked to healthier, longer and happier lives. Build yours up through volunteer service—a time-honored way of meeting new people and making new friends.
Discover your neighborhood association. Most are volunteer-run and a great way to get acquainted with the folks on nearby blocks as well as those right next door. Often, these associations also host neighborhood get-togethers, which are always in need of volunteers.
Help out with a community event. Street fairs, festivals, outdoor concerts: All of these events need plenty of volunteer help and are tailor-made for making new friends. You can find calls for help in your community newspaper, on Craigslist.org, or even on the bulletin board of your neighborhood coffee house.
If you’re looking to get back into the workforce or are interested in changing careers, volunteer work can help you build your resume, personal connections and specific skills. Volunteering can be a particularly great way to get hands-on experience with the latest Word processing, Internet, spreadsheet and social media technologies.
Learn on the job. Many companies welcome the opportunity to mentor a volunteer worker, especially one with life experience who’s eager to learn. Here are some helpful tips for approaching companies and making the most of your experience.
Sharpen IT credentials. Technology professionals need to keep their skills current. Nonprofit groups need IT help on shoestring budgets. It’s the perfect volunteer match. Monster.com offers guidance on getting started.
Save that money you'd spend on master gardener classes and learn informally from others. Parks, community gardens and other outdoor spaces are notoriously understaffed—but they’re operated by experts who love their craft and are eager to share their knowledge.
Nurture community gardens. They feed families, they beautify neighborhoods—and often, they’re run by knowledgeable, over-stretched volunteers. Many community gardens are in desperate need of help and time. Not sure where to find one nearby? Search for a community garden near you.
Refurbish parks. When the leaves begin to fall and the days become shorter, ask your local park officials if they need help putting flower gardens to bed before winter hits. Learn how to help in a park near you.
Learn by teaching. Share knowledge with kids about plants and seeds. The National Gardening Association’s Kidsgardening.org website provides helpful tips and resources. Or lend a helping hand to an older neighbor who's a gardening enthusiast.
Learn to be a project organizer with this easy guide that breaks down what you need to know to successfully manage any project. These skills are a great resume booster!
Researchers recently found that volunteering has measurable health benefits! Two-thirds of volunteers surveyed, or 68%, said that volunteering made them feel physically healthier, and a whopping 79% said it lowered their stress levels! View the entire report here.
There's no better way to learn than by doing. Start your own service project and recruit your family, friends and neighbors to help!