Volunteering in the New Year: 7 Tips for Making it Stick

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Volunteering in the New Year: 7 Tips for Making it Stick

If you are wanting to making volunteering in 2013 a regular practice, here are some good guidelines to help you make it stick.
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How to get your employees hooked on volunteering this year! http://3bl.me/3af29f

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Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 1:30pm


Read the entire article on the RealizedWorth Blog

As the holidays approach, many of us are looking forward to slowing down, spending time with family and getting some time to reflect.  Such reflection often includes brainstorming new intentions for how we want to improve our lives in the coming year.  For some, that bulleted list will include volunteering.  Maybe it’s been a meaningful practice in the past and they’ve gotten away from it?  Or, maybe they are a newbie and have been wanting to try it out?  Like all resolutions, the question is – will it stick?

In our work with clients, we spend considerable time interviewing employees who have a vested interest in seeing volunteerism flourish at their company.  Typically, these are folks who somewhere along the way have had the opportunity to fall in love with volunteering, and therefore, desire to see their company’s program develop.  After a day of interviews, I am always struck by the passion of these folks.  It’s not everyone we talk to, but for many, getting hooked on volunteering has changed their life and the energy they ooze while talking about it is infectious.

But, what’s their secret?  How did they get hooked? Since many forms of helping can be rather mundane and ordinary, we may wonder – is there a type of volunteering that is more likely to be transformative and, therefore, endure as a regular practice?  In an entry posted a few months ago, we noted a study revealing when people volunteer on regular basis, they experience “the helper’s high” – an immediate euphoric sensation that accompanies the act of helping, followed by a longer-lasting, heightened sense of calm and emotional well-being. The study also revealed that when volunteering is done frequently, as part of a weekly rhythm, these positive feelings began to endure and induce other health benefits like stress alleviation, pain reduction, strengthened immune function, mood elevation, and heightened self-esteem.[1]

But, as the author the study, Alan Luks, observes, “the value of the study is not so much in its novelty as in its explanation of how helping improves health and what kinds of volunteering produce the greatest benefits.” If you are wanting to making volunteering in 2013 a regular practice, here are some good guidelines to help you make it stick.

  1. Connect with real people.  Volunteering that is more likely to bring on the well-being associated with the helper’s high involves personal contact with real people, over that which is less personal like stacking chairs or collecting canned goods. The forming of a genuine bond with another person is the basis of the good that comes to the helper.  The focus needs to be on moments of relational connectedness, not how much we accomplish.  When there is a genuine bond of empathy, there is a healing that occurs for the both the helper and the one being helped.  In Luks’ survey, the helpers with personal contact were more likely to report experiencing the helper’s high as well as increases in self-esteem and the physical signs of stress reduction.
  2. Do it often.  Not surprisingly, gaining the most out of helping depends on how often we do it.  Luks’ study showed that the more often people volunteered, the more often they experienced the helper’s high and reported good health.  The ideal frequency is about two hours per week.  Building these two hours into your weekly rhythm is a pro-social behavior that seems to lead to a more helpful attitude toward others the rest of the week, which helps the benefits to cascade.

Read the rest of the article on the RealizedWorth Blog

Keywords: Diversity & Human Resources | Corporate Citizenship | Volunteerism & Community Engagement | corporate volunteer | csr | employee volunteer | volunteer