Volunteering is not often on many people’s radar. With work, family commitments, and social engagements, making time to volunteer can feel impossible. But the truth is that volunteering has some proven positive effects on the lives of those who participate, even though they experience no financial gain for their efforts.
Jeff Ber is an entrepreneur and businessman with a strong belief that volunteering is as beneficial for the person volunteering as it is for the organization or charity. Ber previously served as a campaign volunteer for United Jewish Appeal, which raised funds and support for the less fortunate. Now, he is the Vice President of Operations at Oneball, a charity supporting men who have been diagnosed with testicular cancer. As a cancer survivor himself, Ber knows all too well how important these types of networks are in beating the disease.
Volunteering may not pay the bills, but it pays dividends in other areas. Several studies over the last two decades have proven that those who volunteer experience better overall physical health. A 2013 study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that volunteers over the age of 50 were less likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) than their non-volunteering peers. Another study conducted the same year by United Health Group and the Optum Institute found that 76% of volunteers surveyed said their efforts made them feel physically healthier. Even if your volunteer activities are not necessary physical, chances are you will feel healthier overall. That has a lot to do with the other benefits of volunteering, says Ber.
No matter how or where you volunteer, you will build social connections with others. Studies have proven that staying socially connected combats feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Through volunteering, you are likely to find like-minded individuals who care about similar causes, says Ber. For him, the results can be healing.
Humans are hardwired to help or give to others. Researchers have found that those who give or help regularly experience a boost in hormones responsible for happiness, such as serotonin. In 2008, the London School of Economics found that people who volunteered were more likely to report higher overall happiness. Interestingly, those who volunteered more frequently were more likely to rate their happiness even higher.
Another great benefit of volunteering is the opportunity it gives you to build skills that you can use in your professional life as well. Skills like teamwork, communication, problem solving, innovative thinking, fundraising, and more can often be translated into your career. It’s also an opportunity to prove your effectiveness in any of these arenas through specific and tangible projects. In an incredibly competitive job market, volunteer experience can demonstrate your willingness to get things done, showcase your interests, and portray you as a unique and well-rounded individual.
For Jeff Ber, his professional and volunteering careers often intersect, he says. Each build on the skills needed for the other, making him more highly effective and accelerating his own personal growth