Five Great Reasons Why Future Leaders Should Volunteer

As a young girl, I dreamed of being a Candy Striper. I admit that I didn’t know much about what Candy Stripers actually did; I was after the uniform! There was something about those young ladies in the pink-and-white striped dresses that seemed so grown-up. Years later, when I was old enough to understand that Candy Stripers were teenage girls who volunteered at hospitals, the uniform no longer intrigued me — but volunteering did.

volunteer geneva williams

I was inspired by my parents, who were active in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s – the biggest volunteer effort in modern history. I got involved at church and in school, I visited the elderly in the afternoon, I would clean up the neighborhood on the weekend, and I would tutor kindergarteners. I sold brownies and washed cars. For me, those activities became as much a part of growing up as football games and midterm exams.

My experience confirms what research tells us: If you grow up volunteering as a young person, you become an adult who volunteers. And most leaders start as young volunteers!

According to the federal Corporation for National and Community Service:

  • Approximately 63 million Americans volunteer each year.
  • Young people under age 24 comprise about 23 percent of all volunteers.
  • Volunteers contribute about 8 billion hours of their time annually.
  • With the value of a volunteer’s time estimated at $24 an hour, American volunteers contribute about $193 billion in labor each year to our nation.

Here are five great reasons why future leaders should get involved in volunteering.

  1. Volunteers explore and gain expertise in subjects they are passionate about.
  2. Volunteers develop valuable networks as they meet people with similar interests.
  3. By giving to others, volunteers make investments that will pay off when they need help.
  4. Volunteers sharpen their skills and learn about areas that lead to new career opportunities.
  5. Volunteers gain the satisfaction of giving back to their communities and making the world better.

geneva williamsI learned a lot about making the world better when I suddenly had the chance to work with a senior statesman. One afternoon, as a young regional executive at the United Way, I got a phone call from former Michigan Governor George Romney. The retired governor shocked me by telling me that he wanted to meet with me to share a new vision of his. Despite the fact that he was in his 80s, Gov. Romney was a bundle of energy as he talked about a new Volunteer Leadership Coalition that would attract new recruits for community activism. His slogan for the effort — “Money helps, but people solve problems” — had a big impact on me and others who worked with him on the project over the next three years. I learned that the real magic is in bringing people together to solve problems in communities. That’s what volunteering is all about.

Bottom Line: Volunteering becomes a habit that helps the giver as much as the recipient. I like what Winston Churchill said: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Hear episode #11 of Ignite2Impact as I tell more personal stories. 

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