Volunteering. Philanthropy. Community Service. There are many ways to describe the concept of giving back and providing your time and resources to help others. No matter what you call it, choosing to spend your time and resources to improve the lives of others is an opportunity to spread positivity and joy. Plus, volunteering has some impactful benefits for mental and physical health.
In this article, we will go over some of the benefits of choosing to spend time giving back – benefits to yourself and your community. Then, we will review current opportunities for teens to get involved in their community today!
Benefits of Volunteering as a Teen
- Increased Empathy
Volunteering forces you to experience what life is like for people who are less fortunate. It can be eye-opening to see first-hand how people in different circumstances go through life. Volunteering and spending time helping these disadvantaged people can increase compassion for others and help to see things from different perspectives.
Cognitive Empathy and Affective Empathy are both crucial skills for teenagers to develop. It can be difficult to practice these skills when you are in an environment (school) where everyone is somewhat similar. Going into a radically different environment can help teenagers understand the importance of empathy and further develop those skills.
2. Improved Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is a crucial skill for teenagers to develop as they prepare to enter adulthood. Consequently, teenagers also often suffer from low self-esteem. Positive self-esteem helps teenagers gain the confidence to try new things, act independently, take pride in themselves and their accomplishments, accept frustration and handle it appropriately, and help others in need.
Without healthy self-esteem, teenagers can struggle with forming and maintaining positive relationships, low motivation, anxiety, depression, or turning to unhealthy habits to cope with their negative feelings.
Volunteering can increase teenagers’ self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Spending their time doing something truly selfless and making a tangible difference in their community is directly tied to increased self-esteem. Volunteering helps teenagers reflect on the positive things in their lives, and provides a sense of purpose, directly enhancing self-esteem.
3. Beef Up Your Resume
Volunteering is a wonderful addition to a teenager’s resume and/or college applications. Spending free time giving back to the community and helping disadvantaged groups displays a well-rounded applicant who demonstrates leadership, empathy, perspective, and time-management skills.
Some colleges will even offer scholarships to students who display notable philanthropic involvement. Remember to record your volunteer activities to easily reference them on the application.
4. Build Life Skills
Volunteering is an opportunity to try new things and learn career and life skills from others. Teenagers can perform tasks and learn skills they may not otherwise encounter through volunteering. These skills can help inform potential career paths, future employment, and offer an advantage in adulthood.
For example, volunteering in a hospital or nursing home presents the opportunity to learn about medicine, caregiving, time management, and patience. Volunteering at a non-profit may present the opportunity to learn about bookkeeping, accounting, marketing, or event planning.
Pro Tip: Choose volunteer opportunities that align with interests, passions, and aspirations. This will allow teenagers to ‘test the waters’ in potential careers and gain relevant work experience.
5. Gain Perspective
Similar to gaining empathy and self-esteem, volunteering provides an opportunity to gain perspective. Perspective is a very powerful tool for teenagers to learn and understand. It can be difficult to see beyond yourself as a teenager – the world seems small, and every misstep seems like it could be the end of the world.
As teenagers grow and increase their worldview, they gain perspective and the ability to see situations from other positions. This allows them to make better decisions, consider other beliefs and viewpoints, include empathy in their thought process, and reduce bias and judgment.
Volunteering forces teenagers into new situations with new people and new ideas. Getting outside their comfort zone will help increase their world-view, challenge their core values and beliefs, and make them more well-rounded human beings.
6. Do Better in School
There is a scientifically proven correlation between volunteering and better grades. Some of the reasons for the improved academic performance include learning time-management skills, increasing self-confidence, benefiting from mentorship and positive role models, seeing a tangible impact from work performed, increasing perspective, and learning new skills.
Essentially, a combination of all the other benefits of volunteering have a by-product of improved academic performance. Which, in turn, additionally helps to boost self-confidence. Volunteering is a powerful tool to help teenagers grow mentally and emotionally.
7. Improve Your Own Community
Last but certainly not least on the list are the improvements volunteering has on the community. Performing work that has tangible, visible benefits is extremely rewarding. It is like the instant dopamine hit from crossing something off a checklist. Philanthropic activities directly improve the lives of disadvantaged or in-need groups and seeing that difference feels good.
Volunteering as a teenager has some fantastic benefits. However, the most notable is the impact on the lives of those in need and seeing the difference made by donating your time, resources, and skills to a worthy cause. All the other benefits are an added bonus!
How to Get Started: Volunteer Opportunities for Teenagers
It can be a little intimidating to start your philanthropic journey – knowing where to start is always the hardest part! To help, here is a list of currently available volunteer opportunities catered to teenagers:
One way to get started with volunteering is to ask those around if they need help. For example, here are some very easy ways to volunteer in your immediate social circle:
- Offer to dog-walk
- Visit with an elderly family member, neighbor, or friend
- Offer tutoring services
- Babysit for family or friends
- Donate clothes, food, toys, or school supplies
- Make blankets or beds for dogs and cats at shelters
- Call your state representative to vouch for a cause you care about
- Make ‘essentials kit’ to give to homeless people
- Write a blog about a cause you are passionate about
Here are some other, more formal volunteer opportunities!
Proofread Books to Make them Accessible to the Masses
Donate your time and editing acumen to quickly convert public domain books into e-books. This site splits books into many sections so individuals can all work on the same book simultaneously, speeding up the process.
If you love crafting, this may be the perfect volunteer opportunity. You can donate handmade items like blankets, art, pillows, etc. to help women and children in need feel safe and comfortable in transitional homes.
Send an E-Card to Children with Cancer
Write a card in English or in Spanish to children undergoing treatment for cancer. Easily choose from a library of pre-made designs and send your sincere well wishes today.
Become a Positive Presence Mentor-Coach
Help make an impact on the mental health of teenagers and young adults by donating your time and personal experience. Positive Presence Global mentors hundreds of teens and young adults to help them gain confidence, self-love, and positivity.
If you are short on time, you can still make a huge impact. Adopt a low-income family this holiday season and give their children Christmas gifts. Each family has a list, and you can easily purchase gifts through Amazon to be delivered directly to the family.
Send a Care Package to a Deployed Soldier
The Holidays are a difficult time to be away from family and loved ones. Provide a piece of home and joy for deployed soldiers over the holiday by sending a care package and a card with well-wishes and thanks via Soldiers’ Angels.
Catch A Fire – Volunteering Match Website
Use Catch a Fire to get matched with virtual volunteer opportunities that align with your skills, interests, and capacity. They offer 24 different cause areas and 35 skill-sets to help you find the perfect match.
If you are bi-lingual or multi-lingual, you can use your language skills to help provide translation to people who need to communicate across different languages. Translators without Borders allows you to grow your professional skills, language, skills, and have a real impact.
If you love to garden or already have a garden in your yard, you can join the Plant a Row movement through Garden Comm. Plant a Row asks volunteers to plant an extra row of crops with their existing garden and then donate all of that row to local food banks, soup kitchens, and service organizations to help feed America’s hungry.
You can volunteer virtually for the Humane Society by providing outreach efforts such as calling potential sponsors, asking for donations, and coordinating donation efforts. You can also look at volunteer opportunities in your local area for in-person opportunities.
Ask Those Around You
Lastly, a powerful way to find relevant and meaningful volunteer work is to ask those around you where they donate their time, resources, and skills. Ask family members, teachers, coaches, or mentors about how they give back. You may be surprised by the doors this opens and the opportunities that present themselves.
If you are still unsure about where to spend your time or looking for a more long-term volunteering commitment, take a look at our list of volunteer matching sites on the blog How to Get Involved and Make a Difference as a Teen.
Although volunteering has many positive mental and emotional benefits, it is not a silver bullet. If you are feeling pessimistic, doubtful, or anxious, consider reaching out to a Positive Presence mentor to help you understand those feelings and get to a better place. Positive Presence mentors are uniquely trained to help teenagers and young adults manage their negative feelings and find personalized, long-term solutions to feel empowered, positive, and productive.