Tis the season of giving back!
There is nothing like the Holiday Season to feel the need to share your gratitude by helping others. Commericals on television sell us on the notion of so many who need help and social media infuses "ads" encouraging giving to a variety of causes.
As artists and creatives, there are benefits of giving our gifts and talents, whether it is during the holidays or throughout the year. But especially in November and December, many nonprofit organizations are need of help, especially for critical services that during the winter months become more urgent, as well as the end of year fundraising push that help them meet their expenses for the year.
Outside of selling your own creative offerings as part of the holiday marketing frenzy at bazaars and craft fairs, this is also a good time to focus on giving back as well. Volunteering is a great activity for creative freelancers who are in between projects for clients and may have more flexibility regarding time commitment. Why not spend a few hours of your day during the week and help out a clothing drive, homeless shelter or a senior center with your time and talents? By interacting and helping with others, you may find that your brain will come up with creative ideas to major projects that you have on the backburner or meet some people who are interested in your creative gifts for their projects.
Want to use your creative talents as a way to give back? Many nonprofits need help with everything from websites to providing gifts to their clients during this time of year. Some need holiday cards to deliver to the elderly or for children who are in the hospital and can't get home for the holidays. Other nonprofits may need to have someone lead a holiday arts and craft class to engage people to create something for their loved ones. A simple search in your area via Google, United Way, or some other nonprofit web portal can connect you to the projects that need your help the most.
Did you know that volunteering also has a few other benefits as well? Nonprofit Hub lists the following benefits of volunteering that you may want to consider:
1. Boosts self esteem.
"Volunteering helps build a strong safety net for when you’re experiencing trying times. With those strong social ties, you’re always surrounded by a community that’s willing to help you out when times get tough. When you volunteer, you become a part of someone else’s safety net, too. By helping others, you’ll build a greater sense of trust and self esteem."
2. Expands your connections.
"The relationships you can create while volunteering are endless. You connect to others through volunteering, and if you do it regularly, you can maintain those valuable social networks into the future. You can make new friends and keep the old by engaging in a common activity like volunteering. With a larger social network, you’ll have more resources at your fingertips, which leads to better physical, mental and emotional health."
3. Makes you feel good.
"If you’ve ever volunteered before, you’ve probably experienced this: volunteering makes you happy! Researchers at the London School of Economics found that people become happier by volunteering more. When you give your time to others, you attain a personal sense of accomplishment, which accounts for some of the positive effects that volunteering has on your mood. There’s a threshold to reaping the full benefits of volunteering, though. In order to soak up all the positive effects of community service, you need to set aside some time for it. Volunteers who commit at least one or two hours every week reap the fullest benefits from their service."
4. Contributes to a longer life.
"Volunteering does more than boost your mood—it also has effects on your physical well-being. Volunteers encounter greater longevity and less frequency of heart disease. Volunteers may be at a lower risk for memory loss, too. The social interaction can significantly reduce the progress of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. "
5. Gives purpose.
"As people get older, they experience a higher risk for isolation. Volunteering combats that statistic by adding a sense of purpose to your life. The same goes for people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental illnesses. No matter who you are, there are plenty of ways to give your life new meaning by helping others."
6. Combats stress.
"Volunteering goes beyond just being something fun to do; it decreases stress, too. Studies on the “Happiness Effect” of volunteering show that you become happier the more you volunteer. When you assist others, your body releases dopamine in the brain, which has a positive effect on how you feel. Volunteers also experience lower levels of depression."
7. Gives a good example.
"Volunteering as a family is a great way to teach important lessons to your children. Kids are always learning from the example you set for them, so make sure it’s a good one! You can show the impact of volunteering through your actions. By giving back to the community, you can lay the foundation for service in the years to come."
8. Teaches new skills
"Volunteering gives you the opportunity to explore new skills and interests that you might not get to enjoy otherwise. You can broaden your horizons while helping others at the same time. If you’re looking to change things up a little, you can also try out a new job or role without having to commit to something long-term. Volunteering gives you the inside scoop on how some organizations operate, and it can hook you up with some helpful references if you’re serious about making a job switch."
If you are searching for a volunteer opportunity, state associations of nonprofits as well as state service commissions are great places to start. Other national resources include Idealist.org and volunteer.gov. And remember, you can always develop your own volunteer outreach program with a few friends and supporters to those in need.
Sharing our creative gifts is one of the blessings of being who are...creatives.