4 Things Sharks and Volunteers Have in Common

How Volunteers are Like SharksWhen our team first met to discuss how we could be involved with Discovery Communications’ Shark Week, we hoped our followers might ask:

What does volunteering have to do with Shark Week?

After a quick brainstorm and a few laughs, we agreed the best way to spark a conversation about the importance of volunteers and sharks were to connect the two directly. What we found was surprising: we’re not that different after all.

So how are volunteers like sharks, the diverse and powerful creatures of the deep blue sea? Here are four ways.

  1. We’re Endangered

Earlier this year, we analyzed a Bureau of Labor Statistics report on volunteer rates in the United States. The report told us that volunteer rates in the U.S. have been steadily declining for over a decade. In fact, the rate of people who volunteer dropped by nearly 4 percentage points between 2005 and 2015.

We wanted to find the cause, so we took to Twitter to engage our followers in a conversation. Thought leaders, nonprofit representatives, philanthropists and volunteers all weighed in on what they thought some potential causes and possible solutions might be.

Sharks are also disappearing. According to Discovery, scientists have seen crucial populations drop 90% in just one generation. Together, we can pledge to protect sharks and support organizations like Reef Check Foundation and Shark Stewards, who work to preserve and protect our oceans and advocate for policies that promote sustainable fishing practices, respectively.

  1. We Play a Pivotal Role in Society

While the numbers on volunteer rates aren’t promising, our significance in society is undeniable.

Many have posed the question, “What would our world look like without volunteers?” and it isn’t pretty. For one, the estimated $1.6 billion in impact from volunteers who used VolunteerMatch to get involved in 2015 would disappear. Without volunteers giving time, environments around the world would be less prosperous, animal protection initiatives would decline, care for the elderly may diminish, and assistance in times of crisis and need may come become sparse.

As apex predators, sharks play an important role in their society too. They keep our ocean ecosystems healthy and balanced by keeping populations of fish in check. Without sharks, fish would overgraze, destroying large sections of our oceans, and leaving entire ecosystems vulnerable to future threats.

It’s one of many reasons Discovery — alongside Oceana — helped introduce congressional legislation today to ban the sale of shark fins here in the U.S.  Help us help sharks: voice your concern by sending send a letter directly to your representative in support of the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act. Learn more.

  1. We’re Determined

Volunteers are determined to make a difference and leave a positive impact on our communities. With 29 causes and over 118,000 new opportunities posted on VolunteerMatch last year, there’s no shortage to what volunteers can do. And it’s our determination to find a volunteer opportunity with a cause we care about that makes all the difference.

Meanwhile, sharks are surprisingly intelligent creatures. They’re capable of learning, remembering, and even teaching one another. According to Discovery, they’re also curious. Great whites approach and investigate just about any unfamiliar floating object out of curiosity. And when they’re ready to attack their next meal, sharks are determined.

When a shark goes in for the kill, it will move quickly — catching speedy fish with an element of surprise. Sharks can also be found hunting prey all over the world. And like volunteers, some sharks prefer to go the distance alone, while others find strength in numbers.

  1. We Break Stereotypes

Critics say volunteering is for those who have the time, but research shows that volunteering may actually help you save time by adding years to your life. Plus, volunteers often say that they leave their volunteer shift feeling like they’ve gained something in return.

Sharks are also breaking stereotypes. Many think they’re dangerous, but in reality, sharks do not deliberately hunt humans. According to scientists, if a shark attacks a human, it’s typically a case of mistaken identity. And here’s a something we bet you didn’t know: While sharks kill about 6 humans each year, humans kill up to 100 million sharks per year.

What are some ways you think volunteers are like sharks? Share them with us in the comments section below!

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