One of the most common misconceptions about volunteering is that there are not many people willing to give their time and effort to a worthy cause. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), more than 62 million people volunteered in the U.S. in 2016, giving 7.8 billion of their hours to help generate more than $1.8 billion in services.
It’s a sign of increased civic awareness among Americans. It’s a willingness to get involved in one’s communities, as well as other places. If you want to do your part in making the world just a little bit better, it’s best to have your facts straight.
Here are seven common myths about volunteering, debunked!
Myth #1: You don’t need any qualifications or skills to volunteer.
One of the most common misconceptions about volunteering is that there are no qualifications needed to do the tasks. While you might not require extensive experience, most volunteer opportunities need people who have a particular skill set or affinity.
If there’s a need for tutors, for example, in a certain community, you may need to have basic knowledge of teaching methods as well as competency on the subject matter.
Myth #2: You know the needs of the community.
To paraphrase a famous movie line, volunteering is “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”. And that’s the best part of the experience! Learning new things and meeting people from various walks of life can enrich your outlook. Even if you do your research on an organization beforehand, there is nothing like experiencing their mission first-hand.
The key is to interact with people and listen to and respect their opinions. Simply because you are used to doing something your way does not mean that’ll be applicable in the context of the work. Be humble and modest in knowing that you might not have the answer to their needs and your ideas might not be the best solution.
Myth #3: You can only volunteer if you are a student or a fresh graduate.
Students and fresh graduates will certainly learn a lot when they volunteer, but they are not the only ones who can (and do) volunteer. Anyone can help. In fact, demographic data from the CNCS shows that in 2015, 19.2 million volunteers were baby boomers, 4.8 million were veterans, 11 million were 65+, and 19.9 million were Generation Xers.
For as long as you’re willing to help, you can never be too old (or too young, for that matter) to volunteer. It’s all about finding the right organization you’re passionate about and where you can be of most help.
Myth #4: You can’t afford to have the time off work.
Volunteering doesn’t have to happen during standard work hours.. You can offer your service on weekends or evenings. If you work for a company, check and see if they offer paid volunteer time off (VTO). Your employer may have hours allocated for giving back to the community. (Fun fact: volunteering actually makes you feel like you have more time in your day!)
Furthermore, volunteer work can help you advance your career, whether you are fresh in the labor market or an seasoned professional. Volunteering not only gives you a unique set of skills and broad knowledge base, it makes you more confident and helps you discover new things about yourself. Volunteering may also open new avenues for your career by expanding your network.
Myth #5: You don’t need to work hard because you are just there to help.
As Philip Stanhope said, “Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.” Volunteering for a good cause is awesome, but only if you’re committed and passionate. You’re not helping if you are unreliable or inconsistent in your service. So consider your time and length of commitment before embarking on your next volunteer adventure.
Myth #6: You will change the world.
Doing your part in helping the world become a better place is admirable, but you have to be realistic. You may not immediately see the results of your actions. Yet, your small contribution still ultimately impacts the big picture. And no matter what, by volunteering you’ll be able to help make at least one person’s life a little better. That’s a reward in itself!
Myth #7: You have to be selfless to volunteer.
You can’t abandon yourself. Doing so doesn't make you selfish. When you enjoy helping good causes, you feel happier, healthier, and confident. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Improved mental and physical health are two reasons great reasons to volunteer.
If you’re feeling lonesome or depressed, volunteering can put you in touch with people in your community. Or if you’re eager to learn a new professional skill or flex an existing one by putting it into practice, skilled volunteering can help you do that. Whatever your reason, if your intentions are honest, you’ll make good things happen.
The Takeaway: Volunteering is a passion
At the end of the day, volunteering is more than just rendering hours needed for a task. It is a way to show others they matter. As long as you have the right attitude, skills, commitment and drive to do the work, you can make a difference.
Guest post by Lauren Buckler. Known for her motivational words, articles, and content, Laura Buckler is arguably the most optimistic writer you’ll find on the web. She volunteers in the nonprofit sector by night and writes for an essay service by day. According to Laura, there isn't sadness in life if you know where to find your happiness. For more doses of inspiration, follow Laura on Twitter.