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Transformative Volunteering & Why Giving Back Matters

We know volunteering can be good for you — but why? Studies show that, through volunteerism, you can acquire or improve skills such as communication, decision-making, project management and leadership. Learn what makes a volunteer activity meaningful, beyond providing a service to a nonprofit or simply completing a series of tasks.

Starting Your Volunteering Journey

When we engage in community activities — giving, fundraising, volunteering, or other types of service — we tend to interact with people and issues that are outside of our daily experiences. You may find yourself working to expand your perspectives, asking better questions about society, people, and work. Service work, if you want it to, can become a means for personal growth.

We know that volunteering looks different in North America than it does in Europe, the Middle East, Asia or the UK. But our differences are what make us strong. Creating change in our communities depends on our ability to unleash the creative power of our diversity. And through volunteerism, we apply the strength of our differences globally and appreciate everyone for who they truly are. We are actively learning from and amplifying different perspectives, experiences and voices so everyone thrives at work, at home and in society.

You are essential to civic action: volunteering with patient organizations, leading on nonprofit boards, donating to causes you care about, sharing acts of kindness, offering skills and talents to build capacity at organizations, amplifying the work of advocacy groups — and standing up for what we believe is best for your communities. And these are only a few ways you can start your volunteer journey.

How to Find Meaning Through a Transformative Approach

Whether you’re in-person or volunteering remotely, the typical volunteer experience tends to be transactional. A transactional experience is where you identify a nonprofit need and then provide a service to address that need. These are projects where we show up, learn a little about the organization, complete the tasks, have some fun with colleagues, finish the project and call it done. Usually, these projects don’t turn into years-long relationships with the organization and they don’t typically change our lives or the lives of participants.

“Transformative” volunteering emphasizes people. Transformative volunteering focuses on the human element in addition to the task. Transformative volunteering is a guided experience. This means it requires a leader —a facilitator, a teacher, a storyteller, a mentor —to create conditions where transformation can occur. Transformation is, as the word “transform” indicates, a change; it’s a change in how we see ourselves in the world, about what we believe to be true in the world, and, ultimately, how we behave and act in the world.

To learn how to increase the value and meaning of civic engagement projects through a transformative approach, check out this toolkit.

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