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Benefits of Volunteering (for the volunteer individually)

Information and research on the tangible benefits of volunteering, from improved health to job hunting to tax deductions.

The Benefits of Volunteering
from the 2000 National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (NSGVP), Canada
Do Volunteers Want to “Talk Amongst Themselves”?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2015
The Effects of Volunteering on the Volunteer, John Wilson and Marc Musick, Law and Contemporary Problems, 1999
Enough Formal Banquets! Let's Transform Recognition Events, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
The Healing Power of Service, Edward V. Brown
Making Ongoing Volunteering Valued and Visible, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2009
On Being a Dream-Catcher, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
Reaching Out to International Visitors, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1998
Recruitment Maxims, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2005
Researchers Find Experience Corps Boosts Student Learning, Adult Health, 2009

Various studies of AARP Experience Corps

Tax Deductions for Volunteers, Conrad Teitell, 2007
Volunteering and Employability: Cause or Effect?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2013
Volunteering is good for your health, new study says, Peter Hilton, 2014

Highlights of a study by the UnitedHealth Group, the Optimum Institute, and Mashable finding a link between volunteering and better physical, mental, and emotional health.

Volunteering works: Volunteering and social policy, 2007
which gives an overview of various studies on the benefts of volunteering
Volunteers Just Want to Have Fun, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2005
Watching, Helping and Learning from China, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2004
From the Corporation for National and Community Service , 2007, pp. 20
By Stephan Meier and Alois Stutzer; academic research study from the Institute of Empirical Research in Economics at the University of Zurich , 2004, pp. 34
a study conducted by the Boy Scouts of America exploring volunteers' motivations and highlighting the benefits of volunteering , 2003
By Petra Cook and Nicky Jackson. Explores how volunteering can help to develop the critical professional management skills of working with people who have different timeframes, values and interests. It assesses the personal experiences of senior managers and also their views on volunteering in their capacity as employers. The study also examines the views and actual experiences of returned VSO (UK) volunteers. , 2006, pp. 24
by Renaissance London, report of a 3-year project at the largest archaeological archive in Europe designed to test volunteering as a form of social inclusion by recruiting volunteers from diverse backgrounds , 2010, pp. 18

There is lots of anecdotal evidence that volunteering has a positive impact on health but a 2008 research review commissioned by Volunteering England seeks to determine what impact it really has. Site has full report and 4 page summary.

, 2008, pp. 101
Family Volunteering Resources on Idealist.org

This area of the idealist.org website includes information on the benefits of family volunteering and a list of articles on the topic. Contains information useful to families who want to volunteer and volunteer coordinators who work with family volunteers.

ServiceSpace Blog

"ServiceSpace was conceived by volunteers, was built by volunteers, and is run by volunteers -- all for the benefit of volunteers. Our projects range from a daily positive news service, to an acts-of-kindness portal, to a gift-economy restaurant." The blog is an exchange of reflections among volunteers about inspiration and service.

Survey Measures of Youth Civic Engagement

CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) and their colleagues have developed and tested various measures of young adults’ “civic engagement” (including their political participation; their community service and local civic work; and their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values). These measures are available for anyone to use. 

Volunteer Work and Well-Being

Summaries and links to research articles on this subject, from the US National Institutes of Health.

Volunteering Solutions Blog

Blog for anyone considering volunteering internationally, with advice for how to choose the right program and other issues. "A handy resource for gap year students, schoolies and travelers who are thinking to volunteer abroad."

Print and e-Books in Our Store

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Stand-alone documents each on a single volunteerism-related subject, all ready for the copier or printer—perfect for newsletters, training handouts, flyers and more.

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A very timely analysis of a major challenge facing nonprofits today - how to properly assess social impacts and the important contributions of volunteers.

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Stories and strategies of youth-adult partnerships that succeed, with over 20 reproducible tools to help you engage youth participants to the greatest effect in your organization.

Archived Infocast from the AICPA Young CPA Network - Original run date, Jan. 23, 2013 - 90 minutes

Three young CPAs share their experiences in volunteerism that has led to personal development of skills transferable to many aspects of their lives, including the workplace. 

 

 

Volunt/ar/eer/ism: What's the DIfference?
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

So many people ask me whether there is a distinction between the English words "volunteerism" and "voluntarism" that I have written up my answer. Here it is:
 
"Voluntarism" (the older term) refers to everything voluntary. In the United States this includes, for example, religion. It certainly encompasses the entire "voluntary sector," but "voluntary" in the "voluntarism" context means not mandated by law (as government is). Many voluntary sector (nonprofit) agencies have a volunteer board because that is a legal requirement, but may not involve volunteers in direct service in any way. There are subjects within "voluntarism" that have nothing to do with volunteers: things like rules of accounting; proposal writing; compensation law.
 
"Volunteerism" was actually coined by Harriet Naylor while she was with the old Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and used for the first time in an organizational name by Ivan Scheier in the 1970's: The National Information Center for Volunteerism (NICOV). Don't let the fact that we know who invented the term deter you from taking it seriously. In the same time period someone, somewhere coined words like cyberspace, byte, nerd, and maybe 1000 others!
 
At any rate, "volunteerism" is a more focused term that speaks to anything relevant to volunteers and volunteering. Some people say it refers to the activity, while voluntarism speaks to the nonprofit setting. But the most important point, for me, is that "volunteerism" encompasses volunteering regardless of setting. Therefore, it allows volunteering with government agencies at all levels to be included, and also covers corporate employee volunteering. Since government-related volunteering is so pervasive (think schools, libraries, parks, etc., etc.), this is not an insignificant point.
 
The American military confuses us even more. I once told an audience of generals at the U.S. War College that they didn't have a "Volunteer Army," they have a "Voluntary Army," as in "non-draft." Just one more confusion in the fascinating world of volunteerism.
 
When we use "volunteerism," we can communicate that we are speaking about issues relevant to our work: the actions necessary to plan for, recruit, encourage, and generally support volunteers in their important efforts. So it is an important distinction and I therefore recommend that you use "volunteerism" in your work.

There is quite a bit of controversy about terminology in our field, which we've tried to document in the subject area Definitions of "Volunteer" in our online resource library. Take a look.

Last Updated: August 26, 2015