If you’re an entrepreneur, it is a given that you’re passionate about your business. You treat it with care and are committed to it because it’s yours, and its successes are your successes. But seasoned entrepreneurs, particularly the ones who have failed a few times before finding success in business, understand the importance of following their passions and creating commitment outside the workplace.
For me, that passion is volunteering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62.8 million Americans volunteered for an organization at least once between September 2013 and September 2014. UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute reported that volunteering is linked to better mental, physical and emotional health. Personally, I volunteer my time and energy with a nonprofit that’s dedicated to providing job opportunities for people with disabilities. It gives me satisfaction and fulfillment that I can’t get if I devote every waking moment to my business.
Sharing your expertise with a nonprofit provides personal fulfillment with far-reaching implications for both your life and business. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of volunteering.
1. It reduces stress.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), more than one-third of employed adults report they feel stress during their workday, and more than 20 percent say their stress level is an eight, nine or 10 on a 10-point scale. I’ve found that devoting time to a non-profit can provide a release for some of that stress. In 2013, UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute found that volunteering helps people manage and lower their stress levels. In fact, an astonishing 78 percent of people who had volunteered in the last year said that it lowers their stress levels.
2. It improves health.
Volunteering gives me a boost, both personally and professionally. When I return to my business, my morale is higher and stress is lower. That has a ripple effect across the entire business. Volunteering makes you feel healthier, which gives you energy. You’re likely to be more engaged at work and feel a deeper connection to your community and your people.
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3. It strengthens professional skills.
About half of all volunteers use work skills -- management, finance or marketing skills -- in their volunteering activities. All of these activities can help develop your people and leadership skills. Working in challenging environments with diverse groups of people brings an entirely new set of challenges. So, while volunteering is really all about helping those in need, it has the added benefit of helping you, too.
So, how should you decide which organization to get involved with?
Volunteering isn’t about making you look good. It’s about putting your talents forward to help those around you. It’s important to understand the organization’s core values, purpose and mission. To find the organization that makes the most sense for you to get involved with, do your research and find a nonprofit whose goals align with your passions.
Make your efforts worth it. For example, I carve out 10 hours per month to volunteer with an organization, that means a lot to me. Ten hours might sound like a significant amount of time to entrepreneurs who already work 60-plus-hour weeks, but think of it in terms of a few extra meetings each month. It’s plenty of time to fully devote yourself to the cause and make an impact on the organization. And in terms of stress relief, personal fulfillment and business development, it pays back in spades.
If you’re already involved in a number of charitable activities and you don’t have the time to fully commit to joining another one, you can still help. Bring others to the table. Nonprofits rely on strategic partnerships, so introduce new people to the organization that need help. Collaboration is the lifeblood of nonprofit work, after all.