By Julie Holdaway

Published in the Orange County Register on November 8, 2013

From feeding the hungry, to walking for cures to thousands of beach cleanings in between, we unequivocally believe volunteer efforts of all varieties are good for the health of our communities.

Turns out, it’s also good for health, period.

Reviewing 40 studies conducted over the last 20 years, researchers at the University of Exeter identified a strong link between volunteering and positive health outcomes. Studies showed that those who volunteer on a regular basis had a 22% lower mortality rate, as well as higher levels of self-esteem, happiness and general well-being, when stacked up against nonvolunteers.

A study of American volunteers goes as far as to suggest that community members who volunteer two hours per week maximize health benefits.

It’s good for the community and good for our health.

Does that mean we should do everything we can to encourage volunteering?

Despite my Jewish mother’s predilection toward it, guilt is not an effective tool in getting people to volunteer. In fact, “guilting” to get volunteers for your cause is actually likely to backfire. What’s more, the positive health effects of volunteering are reduced significantly when volunteers perceive that they were coaxed – or cajoled — into volunteering. The activity eats too much into their time, and they are not recognized for their efforts.

Similar to fundraising strategies, we do not want to cajole people into supporting our cause, and that’s true when it comes to getting people to commit their time or their money. Instead, it’s important to reach out with your mission and tell your story widely. You are passionate about your cause and should focus your efforts on people who feel the same. People who give freely of their time remain with you longer and derive the maximum health benefits.

Instead of an apple a day, who can come up with a catchy jingle about “two hours volunteering a week…”

Find the original article published in the Orange County Register here.

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