For some, the word philanthropy conjures thoughts of monetary donations through the use of trusts, endowments and the like. But what if we began to also think of philanthropy in terms of time and talent rather than dollars and cents? Fortunately, that mindset has become a way of life for many. In fact, volunteers provide an extremely valuable service to worthwhile organizations that otherwise would suffer for lack of manpower. And in the end, everybody can enjoy the rewards – including benefits that go sight unseen.
Good for the Heart – In Unexpected Ways
There’s an instant feeling of achievement when we volunteer because helping others helps us feel good about ourselves – and that’s OK. Everybody benefits from the effort. But the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) – a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through its core programs (AmeriCorps and Senior Corps) and national volunteer effort – reports that over the past two decades, it has seen a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social ones.
The research is presented in a report titled “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research.” The data in the report demonstrate a strong relationship between volunteering and health – those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who don’t. There’s also indication that those who devote a “considerable” amount of time to volunteer activities (about 100 hours per year) are most likely to exhibit positive health outcomes.
When it comes to age groups, older volunteers are shown most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering.
If you’re interested, find volunteer work that fits best with the time you’re able to give and what you’re able to do. From reading to a child to delivering meals to seniors to driving nails or balancing books – and more – there’s a need for every skill set and available pair of hands.
If You Must Deduct …
Along with the many intangible benefits of volunteering – like seeing the direct benefit of providing an organization with much needed peoplepower – there is a tangible side, too. According to the IRS, certain expenses associated with volunteer work are deductible if the volunteer itemizes, such as those:
- Incurred while volunteering for a qualified charity
- Unreimbursed expenses
- Incurred only because of the volunteer services
- Not for volunteer’s personal, living or family use
Deductible examples include (but are not limited to):
- Buying and cleaning uniforms
- Travel, lodging and meals