How to Establish a Sense of Community Through Volunteering

By Charlie Fletcher

Community is a critical factor of a well-lived life. Not only does it allow you to establish a greater social life, but it also helps you tap into a wide variety of other benefits.

Here are a few of the best ways getting involved in a community can improve your life — as well as a few suggestions for ways to build a community through the selfless act of volunteering.

The Benefits of Community

It’s wonderful to have a solid community that you feel connected to at any stage of life. Early on in life, it can help with social and mental development. You can feel both challenged and encouraged as you engage with those around you.

Once you reach middle age, the benefits associated with your community begin to shift — albeit in equally important ways. For one, a sense of community has been connected to an increase in life expectancy.

Without a sense of community, loneliness can occur more frequently. People who suffer from loneliness are more prone to physical stressors like sleep disorders, heart disease, and even preemptive death. Building a sense of community can prevent loneliness from occurring and it can build your confidence, give you a sense of purpose, and bring fulfillment to your life.

There are many ways to build a community, even when you’re older. You can join a local club or invest in a church. One of the best ways to find community is through volunteering.

How to Find Community Through Volunteering

Volunteering provides a wide variety of community-based benefits. However, if you want to volunteer, you need to do so thoughtfully.

If you aren’t already involved in a meaningful, satisfying volunteer community, here are a few tips to help you get the ball rolling.

  1. Get in the Right Mindset

The first step in volunteering is doing a mind and heart check. Start by asking yourself a simple question:

What is your goal in offering your time, efforts, and resources to a non-profit organization?

If the answer is simply that you want community, you may want to make a few internal adjustments. A purely self-centered volunteering mindset won’t get you very far.

Volunteering is an intense activity that can be physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally draining at times. You want to make sure that you’re committed to more than your welfare as you prepare to volunteer. By desiring the betterment of those around you, you can bring an added passion and conviction to your volunteering that will see you through the low points over time.

You also want to ensure that you approach your volunteer responsibilities professionally. If you’re only half-hearted about your volunteerism, it’s too easy to come across as sloppy and uninterested. Prepare yourself to put your best foot forward, whether you’re interacting with others, training for a position, or any other aspect of the volunteering lifestyle.

2. Consider Pulling Together a Volunteer Resume

It’s tempting to treat volunteering like a subpar version of a job. But the truth is, most non-profit organizations operate similarly to a real business. They file taxes, report income, have hours of operation, and so on.

The good news is that, if you’re looking for community, many volunteer positions will have a stable environment where you can build long-term, meaningful relationships. The bad news is, you can’t always ride in like a knight in shining armor and offer your services as if you’re saving everyone in the room.

You may find that you can’t even get a job at certain non-profits without proving your worth upfront. One of the best ways to do this is to create a volunteer resume

This is similar to a professional resume with a few exceptions. For instance, rather than focusing on past job experiences, list any volunteer opportunities you’ve participated in in the past.

Make sure to emphasize any long-term volunteering you may have done. Short-term experiences can be included as well, but don’t make too big of a deal out of a weekend spent cleaning up trash or a one-day bake sale. It may come across as tacky or insincere.

You should also take time to emphasize your education — especially if it’s relevant to a volunteering opportunity. For instance, if you worked as a nurse, that can be a powerful qualifier on a volunteer application. Working as a non-profit accountant is another winner, especially if the non-profit you’re wanting to help needs assistance during tax season. 

Whatever it looks like, do your best to pull together a clean, polished volunteer resume that helps you stand out.

3. Align Wants With Needs

As you pull together your volunteer resume, use this time to gauge your desires, abilities, and limitations. 

Consider the areas where you enjoy volunteering your time. If you’re a people person who enjoys organization, then an administrative role may be your calling. 

You should also consider your time limits and other boundaries in your life. Be sure to outline your desires for a part-time or a full-time volunteer position, and your availability throughout the workweek and weekends.

These are important things to clarify beforehand, as they can help you align your wants with the needs of others. What are your passions? How can these passions help others around you?

It may take some time, but with patience, you’ll find the right match. There are many volunteering options no matter where you live. Study each position carefully before you apply.

4. Master the Volunteer Lifestyle

Once you’ve applied and found volunteer work, it’s time to master the volunteer lifestyle. This may take some adjustments at first.

For instance, it’s important to work your volunteering responsibilities into your daily routines. Add your hours into your calendar so that you don’t double book yourself. Make sure to rest adequately beforehand, as well. 

You can also build pre-work and post-work routines to help you prepare for and detox from volunteering, respectively.

It’s also wise to schedule consistent times to assess and evaluate how your volunteering is going. During these periods, consider your overall experience, and if your impact has grown or diminished. If the latter is true, it may be time for a change.

Also, think about your desire to build community. It may even be a good idea to express this to your volunteering organization. Most volunteering organizations are desperate for volunteers, and will typically do anything to bring you back for more work. If they know that building community is your focus, they may take steps to help you meet those needs.

Establishing a Sense of Community Through Volunteering

There are many ways to build community, but few of them are as powerful as volunteering. Volunteering allows you to gain a sense of meaning, find your purpose, and even cultivate greater mental and physical health.

If you’re looking for a way to tap into the benefits that come from proximity and connection with others, don’t forget to volunteer.

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Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. When not writing, she is a part-time wedding planner and spending time with her nephews.

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