Could this become the year of the Happiness Pandemic
I have a question for you…
What is a thrill that doesn’t fade with repetition
…a high that reduces stress, increases wellbeing, and enhances your mood
…a connection that grounds us as humans
AND more young people are doing it than ever before…?
It’s the Science of Generosity!
Yes, an actual science (with real studies), and volunteering can be found at its very heart!
Since the beginning of humanity, we have embraced the concept of looking after each other. As societal groups and communities formed our social conscience grew and developed into the outpouring of generosity that is evident across the world today – particularly in times of crisis.
HOW DID IT START?
Research shows Volunteering dates as far back as medieval times when in Britain no fewer than 500 voluntary hospitals were established during the 12th & 13th Centuries. However, the term ‘Volunteer’ wasn’t introduced until 1755, derived from the French word volontaire meaning ‘offering oneself for military service’.
It wasn’t until the 19th Century that we began seeing more organised examples of volunteering with the first YMCA being established in America in 1851. Services clubs like Rotary and Lions were established in the early decades of the 20th Century and the end of WWII brought a shift to a more global volunteering focus with the introduction of The Peace Corps in 1960.
But there is no doubt the introduction of the world wide web in 1990 has impacted Volunteering most significantly, quite literally unveiling a whole new world of volunteering opportunities.
WHO’S DOING IT?
Historically the volunteering bandwagon was mostly occupied by the middle-to-mature aged, middle-to-upper class; however in recent times (no doubt due to the introduction of the internet) more young people are jumping on than ever before.
Schools and universities are introducing entrepreneurship programs seeking to encourage and reward altruistic behaviour.
In 2019 the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported three distinct peaks in the age at which people volunteer: late teens, during their 40’s and later in senior years. Females are dominant in the 40’s (presumably due to school and children’s activities), however both sexes are well represented in the early and later peaks, although in general females are more likely to volunteer than males (21% compared to 17%).
The 2016 Census in Australia indicates 3.6 million people had volunteered in the community within the previous 12 months – 19% of the population (up from 17.8% in the 2011 Census). Regional Australia enjoyed an even higher rate at 21.4% compared to 17.7% for capital cities. The Darling Downs and South West Region (home of Drought Angels) saw an even greater portion with 23.3% of the population participating in volunteering. (source ABS)
WHY ARE THEY DOING IT?
The benefits of volunteering are almost as vast as the array of volunteering opportunities and the people who volunteer. This being the case, it stands to reason the motivating factors that keep a volunteer coming back time after time are also many and varied.
When looking at the reasons why people volunteer, three key themes emerge. Altruism, Work/Business and Social.
Altruism: The desire to give back, make a difference, make an impact, contribute to a cause you believe in. Helping those less fortunate and experiencing a new perspective that brings fulfilment to the life of the giver (volunteer) as well as the recipient. These are all indicative of altruistic behaviour, showing selfless concern for the wellbeing of others.
Work/Business: For individuals, volunteering can offer career benefits by allowing for the development of new skills, building experience & knowledge in the field which can enhance your CV, gain accreditation, and ultimately improve employment prospects. This can range from admin or general trade skills right through to offering your professional and trade services ‘pro bono’ to a charity or not for profit organisation. Likewise, businesses can benefit from introducing workplace volunteering initiatives to increase the morale of employees and raise their social impact standing with clients and customers. In 2011 an Australian survey revealed 24% of volunteers worked for an employer that had an employee volunteer program. (source – volunteering.com.au)
Social & Health: Volunteering connects you to others offering an opportunity to meet new people, gain confidence and self-esteem, spend quality time with others and get to know your local community. Studies have shown volunteering produces a boost of feel-good endorphins – the same ones associated with a runner’s high. Volunteering also releases oxytocin which lowers stress levels and makes you feel more connected to others. Ultimately Volunteering makes you happy by bringing fun and fulfillment to your life.
HOW ARE THEY DOING IT?
Finding the right volunteering opportunity for you starts with some simple questions. Ask yourself, do you want to work with adults, kids, animals? Would you like to volunteer on-site or remotely from home? Would you prefer to volunteer alone or in a team environment? Behind the scenes or in the public eye? How much time can you commit? What skills can you bring? What causes are important to you?
Once you have narrowed down a few of these key parameters you can commence your search for volunteering opportunities within your local community (schools, service clubs, religious groups), your favourite charity or through online databases such as Volunteering Queensland, Volunteering Australia, GoVolunteer and Australian Volunteers to name a few.
Most charitable organisations will have more than one way for you to contribute to their cause in a voluntary role. From offering pro bono professional skills from the comfort of your home, attending events to ‘rattle the tin’ for their cause, right through to hands-on volunteering to deliver their core programs and services. In no time at all you can find a volunteering opportunity to suit all ages and all skill levels.
In recent years we have witnessed an increasing trend towards spontaneous volunteering. When disaster strikes the Aussie spirit kicks in and communities rally around to help their own in times of hardship. From bushfires to floods, cyclones to health pandemics, Australians assemble to help during the disaster and the mammoth clean-up efforts, determined to help their fellow Aussies through the tough times.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
The only thing standing between yourself and your volunteer journey is willingness of heart and hand. Start your volunteering journey today and help turn this around to become the year that brought us the Happiness Pandemic.
Afterall, volunteering is a physical form of generosity, and…
generosity makes us human.
To register as an Angel Volunteer with Drought Angels visit www.droughtangels.org.au and click the volunteer now button.