Giving Compass' Take:

• The psychology behind volunteering shows that motivations can vary from person to person, and that there are physical, emotional, and social benefits to the practice. 

What motives make individuals want to volunteer more? What are the main differences in people who are engaged in volunteering vs. people that are not? 

• Read about how volunteering can help your career. 

In the U.S., approximately 26% of adults volunteer; most are between the ages of 35 and 54. Women volunteer more frequently than men, and those with higher educational attainment tend to be more likely to volunteer. Specifically, a greater proportion of college graduates volunteer as opposed to those who have no or little college education.

There are a number of factors, both altruistic and egoistic, that motivate individuals to volunteer. Often people become familiar with an organization for personal or professional reasons and then become inspired to donate their time and effort to that institution. Others choose to volunteer as a way to express their ethical or moral values regarding helping others or humanitarianism, or because they want to learn more about the world or a specific population.

It’s well documented that there are numerous emotional, physical and social benefits associated with volunteering. Studies have demonstrated that volunteers experience a “helper’s high” — a prolonged feeling of calm, reduced stress and greater self-worth after helping others —and overall life satisfaction is higheramong those who volunteer.9 Studies of senior citizens have found that volunteering “reduces the pace of functional decline” and is related to lower rates of depression.

Physical health is also enhanced among volunteers, particularly among older individuals. Older volunteers tend to report better health and a lesser decline in health than non-volunteers. While one might assume that better health is a prerequisite for volunteering, some studies suggest volunteering itself has a positive impact on health.

In addition to the emotional and physical benefits, there are many social benefits enjoyed by volunteers. By becoming a contributing member of an organization, volunteers have the opportunity to hone their social and interpersonal skills and develop valuable friendships with others who share their values and interests.

Read the full article about benefits and motivations of volunteering by Elysia Gabe at Purdue University.