What if there was a study dedicated to unearthing the secrets to a happy life? Researchers analyzed data from 40 published papers and found evidence that volunteering, in fact, boosts happiness. Volunteers had lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being. And for those who want to live a long happy life, volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death than non-volunteers. It is not that helpful people tend to be healthier and happier but instead studies show that helping others itself causes happiness.
Altogether, 64.5 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.9 billion hours last year and of those, a third volunteered for more than a hundred hours each year (which requires just two hours each week). The estimated value of this volunteer service is nearly $175 billion, based on the Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour. However, Florida ranks 48th among the 50 states & Washington, D.C. in the amount of residents who volunteer; only 21% of Florida’s population gives their time in comparison to Utah which has 44% of their population volunteer. Those states that lag behind Florida are Nevada, New York & Louisiana. So it’s time to step it up as a state and county and reap the benefits of volunteering. And while volunteering may be second nature to some, you may be wondering how to get involved? Here’s how.
The Young Pro:
There are 330,000 young professionals (ages 20-34) in Broward and many nonprofits are starting young professional (YP) groups to attract this demographic. While most YP groups support specific causes, Emerge Broward, a program of the Leadership Broward Foundation, is a great introduction to volunteering in Fort Lauderdale. In addition to being the largest YP group, with over 300 members, they partner with numerous charities to do “done-in-a-day” projects. This gives members a good taste of many of the nonprofit organizations in the community.
If a young professional is looking for a group that supports a specific cause, then they can always look to the Broward Center’s Ghost Light Society, United Way’s Young Leaders, PetSet, Young Professionals of Covenant House, Urban League’s Young Professional Network, Next Generation: HANDY, and Deliver the Dream’s Generation Dream to name a few.
LinkedIn recently launched Volunteer LinkedIn with the mindset that volunteering is good for your career and your community. But more importantly, how using your skills can make a positive impact. This initiative focuses on skilled based volunteering which is when company employees and/or individuals offer nonprofits their personal talents or professional competences to help organizations meet their demands. Professionals with a LinkedIn profile can apply for a volunteer position and nonprofits can determine if they are the right fit.
Other similar sites to consider are Catchafire and HandsOnBroward. Connecting a volunteer with the right skills to the right project at the right time will allow getting a greater impact and build stronger relationships between volunteers and the nonprofit sector.
The Baby Boomer/Retirees:
Re-engage for Good is a multi-year initiative of the Community Foundation of Broward. The purpose is to engage retired and soon to retired baby boomers to use their time, talent, and years, of experience to improve our community and lead needed change. The Foundation works with various nonprofits that are looking for the skills and wisdom of retired professionals and/or seniors. They partner with programs like the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber Connect, Impact Broward’s Encore Connect and/or RSVP program and HandsOn Broward’s Corporate Volunteer Council.
With all of the experience soon to be retirees can bring to the table, nonprofits can really benefit from their service and expertise.
In a county that has over 5,000 charities, there are plenty of organizations looking for your help. Happiness is calling. Consider getting involved.