Being a volunteer has lots of benefits. It can bring meaning and purpose to your life, while increasing your self-esteem and wellbeing. Volunteering can also relieve stress, and alleviate symptoms of depression. As well as having a positive impact on your community, volunteering can improve your relationships.
Volunteering is spending time willingly to help someone else without being paid. It can be formal or informal. Informal volunteering includes helping friends and family with things like babysitting, home repairs or caring. Formal volunteering usually takes place through a charity or other not-for-profit or community organisation.
There are many organisations that actively seek volunteers. These include areas such as:
- animal welfare like the RSPCA
- conservation — see Conservation Volunteers Australia or call 1800 032 501
- vulnerable people, like the Australian Red Cross, The Smith Family, the Starlight Children’s Foundation, UnitingCare Australia, and Meals on Wheels
- state emergency services, rural fire services and Surf Life Saving Australia
- volunteers overseas, like Projects Abroad, World Youth International and Australian Volunteers Program
What do you hope to get out of volunteering?
Volunteering can be very meaningful and enjoyable, and in turn may be good for your mental health and wellbeing.
- give you a sense of achievement and purpose
- help you feel part of a community
- help you feel better about yourself by improving your self-esteem and confidence
- help you share your talents, learn new skills and create a better work-life balance
- help combat stress, loneliness, social isolation and depression
- help you meet new people, which can help you feel more connected and valued
Social benefits of volunteering
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and build healthy relationships. It strengthens your ties to the community and exposes you to people with similar interests.
Volunteering also gives you the opportunity to practise and develop your social skills.
Because volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others, it can also help you develop a solid support base. As well as helping to protect you against stress and depression, volunteering can help with mental health recovery.
- Volunteering Australia has fact sheets for volunteers on its website. It also links to Volunteer Resource Centres in each state and territory.
- You can search for volunteer positions in your local area through the Go Volunteer website.
- ReachOut has information on ways to look after yourself while volunteering, finding meaning in charity, and the benefits of random acts of kindness.
- SANE has information on getting back to work after a mental illness.
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Last reviewed: September 2021