Volunteers Make a Difference and Get Happier

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“Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills, misery, ignorance, and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation.”

― Robert F. Kennedy

No Heroics are required!  Very simple things can make a big difference.  And it turns out that doing them will make you happier.  In the case of helping low-income mothers, just a smile at their child can make a mother’s day.  But people with a bit of time to give can change the life of a hard-working mother by volunteering with any of the many great non-profits that serve them. Whether you are considering volunteering, trying to attract volunteers, or want to help current volunteers get more satisfaction, here are some credible sources and useful insights.

Maximizing the Impact

In his book “Give and Take”, Prof. Adam Grant of Wharton makes the case that people who give more than they expect to get back are more successful than others who are more calculating or self-serving.  Among his findings: When people are exposed to the real beneficiaries of their work, They become much more effective and motivated.  In one case, the revenues raised by university fundraisers increased by 400% after coming in contact with one of the people who got a scholarship.  Got volunteers?  Maximize their enjoyment and motivation by making the benefits of their actions real to them.

The Volunteering:Happiness Connection

Tutor assisting mature student in libraryContributing money to a favorite charities is great but actually volunteering gives much higher satisfaction. A study in Germany used the reunification of Germany as a unique test bed for measuring the effect of not being able to  volunteer as usual.  They bypassed usual study weaknesses that way and the results showed that volunteering indeed increases happiness —and, that happiness increases volunteering.  The results were even stronger for people who volunteer often.


If you are considering volunteering: Do it.  You’ll be happier for it — and you can maximize the happiness and your results by focusing on the beneficiaries, not the task.

If you are trying to attract or motivate volunteers, share the happiness results with them, make it easy to volunteer frequently, and make the end results real and present for them.


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