The Benefits of Giving Back
Canadians like to give back. About half of us contribute our time, energy and skills to charities, while 82 percent of us donate money. In fact, in 2013, the average individual donation was about $531 per year. That translates into 12.8 billion dollars donated by Canadians every year.1
Why do so many of us take time out of our busy lives to volunteer in our communities? Why do most of us donate our hard-earned money to charitable causes? We do so because it makes a positive impact on our community, and because it makes us feel good. But giving back can benefit us in many other ways. It can:
Improve your health. Studies have shown that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional abilities and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not. They also experience less stress, lower blood sugar and less sensitivity to pain.2
Improve your mental health. Volunteering may be good for the soul, but it’s also good for your mental health. One of the significant risk factors for depression is social isolation. Volunteering gets you out of the house and is a great way to make new friends. If you’re looking for ways to reduce your stress levels, study after study3 recommend working with animals, so give your local animal shelter a helping hand.
Improve your mood. There’s a biochemical explanation for why giving back makes us happy. Helping others releases feel-good chemicals in our bodies called endorphins. Author Allan Luks coined the term, “helper’s high” to describe the powerful positive feelings people experience when directly helping others.2
Give you confidence. Knowing you are making a difference gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride, and that can be a big boost to your self-esteem. Improving your interpersonal skills as a volunteer can also increase your confidence in other areas of your life. The greater your self-esteem and confidence, the more likely you are to have an optimistic outlook on life and achieve your personal goals.
Improve your social skills. Some of us find it very difficult to meet new people. Volunteering gives us the opportunity to practice and develop our social skills in an informal environment with a regular group of people who share similar interests.
Advance your career. Volunteering is also a great way to expand your professional network. If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can give you exposure to a new field and people who can offer advice.
Help you to develop new skills. Whether it’s fundraising, marketing, event planning, communications, public speaking, training and/or leadership skills, volunteers get to learn and practise skills that can benefit both your professional and personal life.
Provide work-life balance. If you love the outdoors but spend most of your working day sitting at a desk, volunteering is a great way to get outside. Coaching a community kids’ soccer team or helping with a community garden will get you active outdoors while helping the community. Likewise, if you work alone from home, volunteering is a way to work with others, have some fun and connect to your community.
- , & M. (n.d.). Spotlight on Canadians : Results from the General Social Survey volunteering and charitable giving in Canada (2013). Retrieved from http://sectorsource.ca/resource/file/spotlight-canadians-results-general-social-survey-volunteering-and-charitable-giving
- Luks, A., & Payne, P. (1992). The healing power of doing good: the health and spiritual benefits of helping others.New York: Fawcett Columbine.
- Scott, E., & Gans, S. (n.d.). How Having a Pet Affects Your Stress Levels. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-owning-a-dog-or-cat-can-reduce-stress-3144701
- Canada Revenue Agency. (2016, January 27). How do I calculate my charitable tax credits? Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/charities-giving/giving-charity-information-donors/claiming-charitable-tax-credits/calculate-charitable-tax-credits.html
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