Two items on volunteering

#1The art of happiness…Is volunteering the blueprint for bliss?

New research indicates that helping others raises quality of life for British Citizens. When we volunteer our time to do something for others, such as helping out an elderly neighbour or taking part in a local community project, it can be good news for our health, our children’s education and even reduce the local crime rate too.

Volunteering has a positive influence, irrespective of a community’s social class or wealth. “A relatively poor community with lots of voluntary activity can do better in relation to health, crime and education than a relatively affluent community which lacks such activity” explains Whiteley. The research also tested for links between voluntary activity and overall life satisfaction or happiness. Again there is a strong link between communities with lots of volunteering and those where people are very satisfied with their lives.

#2 (This was in WSJ and you need a subscription to access it, so I’ll quote liberally.)
Volunteering That Works

Often, we hear about older Americans’ frustrations with volunteer work. Although the 50-plus crowd recognizes the importance of volunteering, as well as the unique skills they can bring to the table, the effort often falls flat: The activity might be poorly organized, or volunteers find themselves mired in “busy work.”

…Experience Corps, based in Washington, D.C., addresses such problems, in part by expecting more of its volunteers — more time and work, and more commitment.

Founded in 1995, Experience Corps helps children in urban public schools with reading. The program — part of Civic Ventures, a San Francisco nonprofit focused on expanding the contributions of older Americans — assists about 20,000 students in 13 cities across the U.S. It’s hard work: Volunteers often put in as many as 15 to 20 hours a week for an entire school year. Such demands, though, are exactly what many older adults are seeking, says Robert Tietze, director of Experience Corps in Philadelphia.

“Some nonprofits are happy just to have people show up; there’s no challenge for the volunteers,” Mr. Tietze says. In contrast, he notes, “We say, ‘This is a big job; we need your help. And we have high expectations about your work.’ People feel respected when you challenge them.”

…”Lots of organizations don’t have a clue how to create a compelling volunteer experience and how to provide support” for their staff, says Nancy Henkin, executive director of the Temple University Center for Intergenerational Learning, which sponsors the Philadelphia chapter of Experience Corps. “People want to know they’re making a difference.”

…”It’s been a phenomenal experience,” Mrs. Deal says. “They come when they’re supposed to — and even when they aren’t supposed to. Not infrequently, they will help after school. It amounts to thousands and thousands of hours of support.”

The challenge now: expanding the program without sacrificing quality. And finding the money to do so. “The question of growth is enormously difficult,” says John Gomperts, Experience Corps’ chief executive. “Every time we start a new operation, we incur new costs but we don’t produce any revenue.”
Still, the group is considering which cities to target next. “There’s a huge market for our services,” Mr. Gomperts says, and there are “a lot of older adults who want to make a difference in the future of our country.”

To learn more about Experience Corps, visit the organization’s Web site:

I can speak to this perspective. My wife is the volunteer coordinator for a sizable hospice. The volunteers work with dying patients, so the jobs are very responsible, require pre-screening and extensive training, may involve considerable time commitment, and may be emotionally taxing. Yet she has no trouble recruiting and keeping volunteers. There’s almost no failure to perform.

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